This past weekend my friends and I raked for nearly 9 hours in exchange for food and a campsite in a nearly empty campground nestled between a farm and the bay. Alongside about 25 volunteers, we helped to clear about 60 sites from the debris that winter left behind at Recompence Shore Campground near Wolfe’s Neck State Park and Wolfe’s Neck Farm. Fortunately, Maine hasn’t received rain in weeks, so moving truckloads of leaves and debris never became too difficult.

Sure, raking for 9 hours sometimes got old, my hands lost all strength and my triceps screamed a bit from the constant use, but getting able to hang out in such a beautiful place with some fabulous strangers and sleeping outside for a few days, it was most definitely worth every leaf, branch, and pine needle we cleared from the sites.

The employees at Recompence were absolutely amazing and so hospitable; constantly providing us food and water, including a lasagna dinner and BBQ lunch! Turns out, they host volunteers for the first two weekends in May each year to help clean up (Nearby? Lend a hand—you’ll love it!). Although I won’t be around next weekend or next year, I bet I’ll return one day to help out again.

Volunteering to help clean up your local park, campground, crag, mountain, etc. is an excellent way to give back to the place you probably frequent most. Doing so will help to provide a better outdoor experience to all those who visit each season, including you! Many outdoor recreation places are closing because of lack of funds and many other places are moving to an all volunteer-based strategy to avoid closing to the public or requiring entrance fees. If you don’t already volunteer at your local park or organization, ask around for opportunities as most places depend on volunteer work and probably supply you with some excellent outdoor adventures to show their appreciation. This post from Outdoor Nation may be a good start for your search!

While the hours spent raking were enjoyable, the rest of the time exploring, napping in the hammock, petting the farm animals, riding in the bed of the truck, and sitting around the campfire were the best. And since it was all free, it was even sweeter. Did I mention that a lamb was born the day we got there!? So adorable!

Do you help your local park, campground or organization clean up each year? What kind of work do you help out with?