Get outdoors: Area nonprofit agencies need more volunteer helpers | GO

TRAVERSE CITY – Spring has begun in Northern Michigan, and residents eager to be outdoors for reasons to be outdoors can turn to a variety of volunteer opportunities at local nonprofits.

There are a variety of ways for locals to give back to the community and enjoy the natural surroundings. Volunteer organizers said they have an ever-growing to-do list, from simple tasks like picking up trash on the beach to physically demanding jobs like tree planting, trail building, or digging up deeply rooted invasive species.

“The need is greater than ever this year, especially as everything must be done in small groups and with safety precautions,” said Jennifer Jay, communications director for the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.

Worker bees, which typically involve dozens of volunteers, are not allowed to have more than 10 or 15 participants to comply with pandemic-related safety restrictions. Registration is also required for the volunteer events in order to meet these standards.

The land protection organization is holding three days of virtual volunteer training from April 19-21 to prepare them for the work they need to do.

And the conservatory isn’t the only organization that needs volunteers.

Emily Cook, of the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network, said the agency also intends to move on to worker bees and public presentations after a year of virtual work.

Voluntary events to grow invasive garlic mustard plants are planned, and the best time to work is early May to mid-June. Those who are not yet comfortable participating in group activities can also drag the invasive species one at a time and put them in garbage cans that the organization has set up across the area, Cook said.

“Removing invasive species can sometimes be challenging to recruit volunteers because it is hard, repetitive work. However, the satisfaction is instantly felt when you see that there is a space to make room for native plants and the pollinators they support, ”said Cook. “It doesn’t hurt that we’re lucky enough to host these events in some of the most beautiful parts of our region.”

Norm Fred, founder of the Boardman River Clean Sweep nonprofit, said he needed volunteers to help pick up trash and other dumped items along Keystone Road and behind the Goodwill Inn.

Because of the steep climbs in the area, the trash is floated in canoes across the Boardman River to the YMCA property on the other side, Fred said.

He said those who wish to help with this large-scale cleanup can show up at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 17, at the town’s brush drop on Keystone Road or in the Goodwill Inn parking lot.

Michigan’s Department of Transportation’s Adopt-A-Highway program has additional pickups scheduled for May 1-9 in the northern Lower Peninsula. Several sections of the motorway can still be adopted by volunteers.

Such volunteers save tax money while keeping the roadsides clean, said Paul Ajegba, state transportation director.

“Their community spirit and pride make a huge difference. We ask all motorists to look out for these volunteers and to drive carefully during the pick-up times, ”he said.

Each year about 2,900 volunteer groups have taken over 6,000 miles of state highway to keep tidy, though organizers said there is always room for more to literally hop on.

And those who’d rather spend time on the water can volunteer with the Inland Seas Education Association, said Juliana Lisuk, the group’s volunteer coordinator.

“We’re always looking for more volunteers to join our team, especially as program teachers or crew members,” she said.

ISEA teaches about traditional tall ships on the Great Lakes and the management of the freshwater inland seas of North America.

“There is a greater need this year than ever, especially as everything has to be done in small groups and with safety precautions.” Jennifer Jay, communications director for the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy

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