Join the Park Walks Volunteer Community
Park Walks are free, guided walks led by trained volunteers at popular urban and bushland parks state-wide and Parks Victoria is on the lookout for new volunteer recruits who want to bring their flavor to the growing variety of Park Walks on offer. The variety of themes offered through the Park Walks program currently covers mindfulness, fitness, bird watching, environmental and history interpretation. There are 72 volunteers leading the walks on 16 trails across 13 parks. And the list of themes, parks and trails are growing!
Read on to learn about some of the inspiring Park Walks being offered by volunteers and how to get involved.
“There was a unit called Listening to the Leaves that outlined the spectrum of methods that can be used to facilitate nature immersion. At one end were activity-focused initiatives like Junior Rangers and on the other end the contemplative sort. Learning about the latter legitimised that this style was not only something I gravitated towards but was of value to others. One day, the Park Walks support team asked if there was something I wanted to do but hadn't been able to. I said I’d love to take people for walks in a more contemplative way which I was doing on my own anyway, and they supported it.”
The benefits for both Tony and participants led him to offer Mindfulness Park Walks in a voluntary capacity after moving on from his ranger duties. “The things I do every time: Listening and slow walking. I find that listening mindfully really helps to tune into whatever the present moment is offering right now...that’s the cool thing about mindfulness walks – nature reveals in ways not normally noticed”.
“The challenge is to do it in your own patch. When I have people coming back and saying, I’ve tried it out, and it worked. For me, that’s what it’s about”, says Tony.
Tony’s monthly Mindfulness Walks will recommence in 2024. You can join him for a 15-minute mindfulness walk via Parks Victoria’s YouTube channel.
Park Walks also enable nature immersion experiences for those with limited vision and newly arrived groups.
Bilingual ParkWalks are on offer at Yarra Bend, with a recent Park Walk bringing together 23 newly arrived people from Myanmar and Afghanistan for physical exercise and connection together in nature.
Volunteers from across Plenty Gorge, Coolart, Werribee and Yarra Bend parks recently took part in training with Blind Sports Recreation Victoria to make sensory walks that are undertaken in parks more accessible.
From 8th December, Park Walk Volunteers can enjoy the unique scenery of Westgate Park by leading a relaxed ranger and volunteer-led walk. Participants will learn how to identify key bird species by their calls during an easy, hour-long walk. Learn more.
Volunteer leaders receive personal benefits to health, wellbeing and sense of community ten-fold by regularly immersing and offering the experience to others. Some volunteers move into Park Walks as a less labour intensive alternative compared to other activities on offer. The connection to place from regular nature immersion can prompt volunteers to engage in other environmental projects happening in their local parks and reserves. With an ever-growing volunteer-base offering diverse knowledge and experience, Parks Victoria will be commencing a community of practice to connect volunteers with one another to exchange experiences, ideas and skills with one another.