Nature Needs You
Show our planet some love, enjoy time outside, and learn from local nature experts when you volunteer with 815 Outside partners. Explore the tabs below to find your place to get involved!
Forest Preserves of Winnebago County:
The Forest Preserves of Winnebago County have numerous ongoing volunteer opportunities, including:
- Adopt a Trail: Volunteer trail stewards adopt a natural area and focus on making the trails safe and pleasant. Projects include clearing branches and debris after storms, reporting any misuse of the trails, litter control, and alerting the Area Manager of a potential safety issue that may endanger our patrons (such as low-hanging branches, etc.)
- Restoration, Education, Appreciation, Preservation: Habitat restoration workdays are held at various forest preserves on the third Saturday of the month in late spring/summer. Experience is not required! Our natural resource experts offer hands-on ecological restoration training, such as invasive plant removal and native seed collection, plus enriching conservation activities when our work is done.
- Litter League: Whether you participate individually, with a friend, or as part of a group – youth or adult – our LITTER LEAGUE is always in action! We’ll supply the work gloves, trash bags and safety vests while you pick up litter along the roadway to the entrances of Espenscheid and Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserves. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (815) 877-6100 for information.
Natural Land Institute:
Natural Land Institute is a member supported, nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving land and natural diversity for future generations. Since 1958, NLI has protected, managed, and restored more than 17,300 acres throughout Illinois and southern Wisconsin. You can participate in restoring prairies, forests, wetlands, and river corridors by attending Land Stewardship Days.
Land Stewardship Day schedule:
- Burr Oak Valley Preserve | First Saturday and weekly on Thursday
- Nygren Wetland Preserve | Weekly on Wednesday
- Silver Creek Woods Preserve | Third Saturday
- William & Gayle Keefer Nature Reserve | Fourth Friday
- Howard D. Colman Dells Nature Preserve | Days Vary
Nature at the Confluence:
Nature At The Confluence is a new urban environmental center that opened in 2017 with the goal of restoring the land at the confluence and connecting people to the land, and volunteers are needed to help support and sustain this initiative. From planting gardens, pulling weeds, planning trails, or helping with activities for all ages – there’s so many opportunities.
Rockford Park District:
Discover what you can do to “Help People Enjoy Life.” Get involved in any of the following ways:
- Groups, organizations, service clubs, or neighborhood associations can adopt a park and keep it clean, rake mulch for playgrounds, plant flowers, mow grass, or paint shelters
- Adopt or sponsor maintenance needs such as painting, planting trees or flowers, and other projects
- Golf course care or program support
- Coach for Jr. NBA Basketball, NFL Flag Football, cheerleading, or hockey
- Provide sponsorship support with dollars or in-kind support
- Help people with disabilities to be successful in recreation programs through the Therapeutic Recreation department
- Work at events such as Music in the Park and the Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition
The Rockford Park District contains 1,561 acres of natural areas that is maintained with prescribed burns, brush removal, and seed collection. Roughly 465 acres of these are considered remnant Natural Areas, including a 66-acre nature preserve.
Sand Bluff Bird Observatory:
Located within Colored Sands Forest Preserve in Northwest Winnebago County, Illinois, Sand Bluff Bird Observatory is one of the largest small-bird banding operations in the country that is open to the public Although Sand Bluff is primarily a research facility, visitors are always welcome to come watch our operation and share in the learning process.
Severson Dells Nature Center:
Severson Dells has many valuable volunteers who help with educational programs, tend to our pollinator garden, host and hostess on weekends, maintain our library, keep our fish happy and healthy, and so much more! Learn how you can participate here
- Education Program Volunteers are responsible for teaching and assisting lessons for visiting school groups participating in our education programs, which serve approximately 4,000 students each year.
- Nature Center Hist Volunteers staff the front desk on Saturdays and Sundays in 4-hour shifts. Volunteers are also occasionally needed during the week while the staff is out of the office for various functions.
- Conservation Crew members help remove invasive plants, collect native seed, and plant new seedlings. Conservation Crew volunteers meet the second Saturday and fourth Monday or each month from 9:00-12:00pm.
AmeriCorps is a voluntary civil service program supported by the U.S. federal government. Service terms range from 3-11 months, and there are AmeriCorps members assisting with environmental stewardship at the following locations.
- Severson Dells Nature Center
- Natural Land Institute
- Nature At The Confluence
- Boone County Conservation District
Learn more about service opportunities here.
Community science volunteers monitor a variety of wildlife species in our forest preserves. The data collected supports our understanding of the natural world and informs local natural resource management. Severson Dells currently facilitates bat monitoring, bluebird monitoring, cataloging of plant budburst, bumblebee monitoring, and frog monitoring. You can also use the iNaturalist app to record and share your findings with the Forest Preserve of Winnebago County whenever you visit a preserve. Learn more about how you can participate in community science here.