Volunteer of the Season: Paul Barrows

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A volunteer smiles while seated in front of a blooming hedge

By Gabriel Tigreros
San Francisco Park Stewardship Intern

Hello volunteers!

Throughout the year, we try to show appreciation for our wonderful volunteers who spend every week with us helping to restore our national parks. These volunteers work hard to care for our natural habitat and help give our beautiful parks all of the love and attention they deserve. 

We’re inspired by the grand landscapes and the lands we work, and also the people who help us take care of these lands. For this season, we’d like you to meet Paul Barrows, who has been aiding us in restoring national parks in San Francisco for over a year and a half now. We asked Paul what brought him to the parks and what he’s enjoyed most about volunteering:

What got you interested in volunteering with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy?

I was looking for a place to volunteer that combined my love of parks and the outdoors with a community of others who shared these passions. GGNRA (Golden Gate National Recreation Area) was the first place I looked!

Favorite spot within the Golden Gate National Parks? (Can be your favorite park to visit or your favorite site to volunteer at). 

Lands End has become my very favorite place, after spending so many Saturdays there taking care of it with my NPS friends—planting, weeding, mulching—and taking in the views, and watching the hawks. I feel a part of it, and vice versa. 

Most interesting thing you have found/seen while volunteering?

One Saturday morning, a hawk swooped down, snatched up a mouse, and flew off with it. The others in my group were fascinated. I thought it was kind of horrible to watch, but also interesting, as it's all part of nature.

Most memorable volunteering experience?

For me it was the first planting of the season in the fall of 2017 (November 18—I even wrote down the date), on the slope above the Lands End parking lot. It was the first time I had planted something in the ground since I was a kid helping my mom in her garden. 

A photo, poem, drawing, or song that you created in the parks / of the parks, that you would like to share with the rest of our volunteers:

I looked up from planting one beautiful afternoon at the Coastal Bluffs and took this picture.

Volunteers restore a natural habitat overlooking the Pacific Ocean

Has volunteering in the Golden Gate National Parks changed your perception of the lands we steward? If so, how has it changed?

Yes, but not just the parklands, all land. I learned that the land doesn't require you to be an expert to love and take care of it. We're all born with an innate ability to nurture the earth. All you need is a sincere heart and a pair of gardening gloves. 

Something people do not know about you:

I love to sing. I'm sure no one knows that because I won't do it where anyone can hear.

Talking to Paul has got us thinking about the meaning of volunteering and giving back to the lands and to the community. We take in some incredible sights and find some amazing creatures and plants regularly, but one of the best parts about our weekly programs is connecting with people from all parts of San Francisco and beyond, like Paul. So come out and join us—we look forward to getting to know you! See you in the parks!

You Can Ensure That Our Parks Will Always Welcome All

More than ever, we need public lands where communities can come together