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Conservation Vacations Provide Unique ‘Park Ranger’ Experiences in Grand Canyon and on Catalina Island

American Conservation Experience has continued its “Conservation Vacations” program that makes experiences usually reserved for AmeriCorps service members or long-term volunteers accessible to more people. Last year, the Flagstaff-based nonprofit added experiences in Grand Canyon National Park in addition to its program on Catalina Island off the coast of California. Conservation Vacation participants have access to areas that are not on tourist maps and are able to experience a completely different perspective than those on a typical vacation. It is a vacation, but work is expected and is a big part of why the experience is so enjoyable. Now in its third year, the program is going strong and has added additional educational components, based on feedback from participants. “We are always looking for ways to make the experience more fulfilling for our participants,” said Tom Wilson, director of the Conservation Vacations program at American Conservation Experience. “Therefore, this year we have added some activities such as plant identification and bird spotting, teaching more about the invasive and native plants, and the significance of the work we do.” On Catalina Island, for example, volunteers help maintain the health of the island’s ecosystem while enjoying the vacation of a lifetime. The next session on Catalina Island begins May 26, while the first session in Grand Canyon National Park begins will begin on June 2, with sessions running through September and October. “Volunteers should expect a positive, fulfilling experience,” said Wilson. “It can also be challenging, but overcoming these challenges leads to a sense of achievement. This is in addition to the fulfillment that is experienced by completing volunteer service, and the camaraderie that forms within the group of volunteers.” The chance of making very special life-long connections is also something that appeals to the program’s participants. After all, they already have something in common. “A common trait is that individuals are active and enthusiastic and wish to meet new people in a non-typical setting,” said Wilson. The experience is an opportunity to meet and work with people from around the country and around the world. International volunteers have been the trend, but Wilson wants to see more people from the United States enjoy the experience in their own back yard. “We are ready to get the word out about this amazing opportunity, and are very happy the Conservation Vacations program was so successful and has since been expanded,” said Wilson. Conservation Vacation packages are 11-days long and cost $700 to $725. Accommodations, airport transportation, meals and some activities are included. Fees help minimize the parks’ expenses associated with hosting the volunteers. Weekday daytime hours are spent working, while evening and weekends are free for exploring and socializing. On Catalina Island, for example, volunteers have access to kayaks and snorkel equipment (courtesy of the University of Southern California), and have plenty of recreational time to enjoy these activities in the pristine waters of the marine institute. In the Grand Canyon National Park, a bike tour of the south rim is included (courtesy of Bright Angel Cycles). For detailed information on the locations, dates, and the work that is involved, go to Some sessions are filling up fast, especially at Grand Canyon National Park, so those interested are encouraged to register as soon as possible. Conservation Vacations are a program of American Conservation Experience, which is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. ###
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