Research Outline

National Park Service Host Policy Research


To identify the rules, regulations, policies, and guidelines around the National Park Service (NPS) campground and camp host volunteer program, including the selection of volunteers, background checks required, length of volunteer stay, process for public input on volunteers, complaint process, rules for Death Valley National Park, demographics for camp hosts, Freedom of Information Act (regarding public knowledge of camp host applications and written communications between NPS and Department of Interior), and the rights of camp hosts to keep property left behind by campers.

Early Findings

National Park Service (NPS)

  • The NPS are the guardians of America's National Parks, preserving and maintaining them so they be enjoyed by current and future generations of Americans.
  • There are a range of different opportunities available under the NPS Volunteers in Parks Program. The opportunities include "work behind the scenes or on the front line in positions ranging from a one-time service project/volunteer event to a longer term position, serving alongside park employees or with one of our the NPS' partner organizations."
  • Some of the volunteer positions require specialist skills or expertise.
  • Any volunteer with 250 hours of service as a volunteer with any agency participating in the Interagency Pass Program is eligible for a volunteer pass. This gives them free access to America's parks for 12 months.
  • Private Citizens have played a role in the development of the National Parks since 1872, when the first National Park, Yellowstone, was established. When the Volunteers in the Parks Act of 1969 was passed into law, this role changed from an informal association to a formal partnership. The National Trails were included in this partnership in 1983.
  • The NPS states, "Volunteers are accepted from the public without regard to race, creed, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, color, national origin, or disability." Volunteers are not considered federal employees (there are some minor exceptions for legal liability purposes), so can be recruited without reference to the Office of Personnel Management.
  • While there is an overarching policy, many of the guidelines for the volunteers program are dictated by local policy, which can include position management, vulnerable populations, on boarding process , orientation and training , uniform management, housing, expenses, awards and recognition, and termination.
  • The volunteer relationship is formalized with a Volunteer Service Agreement which sets out the relationship between the NPS and the volunteer.
  • The Washington Support Office has been established to oversee the program's overall coordination and guidance. The office also provides reports to the NPS Director and Congress regarding the volunteer program. Each park has a designated Volunteer Manager whose role is to oversee the volunteer program's administration in that location.
  • Volunteers are recruited through the federal land management agencies portal. All available volunteer positions are posted on this website. A list of the available volunteer positions is available here.


  • In our initial hour of research, we have begun to work our way through the available documentation relating to the volunteer program at the NPS. There is a volume of information that suggests most of the questions raised should be able to be answered.