Collage of volunteer photos

Volunteers Make a Difference, One Park at a Time

Learn more about Adopt-A-Park! Lend a helping hand

Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation’s (CCPR) Adopt-A-Park volunteer-driven program allows everyone from individuals to organizations to care for, nurture and grow an identified park partner, or section of a park, enhancing the park’s beauty and taking ownership of its maintenance. Nothing feels better – volunteers say – than giving back and caring for something so valuable to the community.

Parks are an integral part of every community. They provide access to nature and better our quality of life. Adopt-A-Park offers an opportunity for the community to help us maintain our parks, trails and natural areas,” shares CCPR volunteer coordinator Caitlin May.


Encouraged to think globally and act locally, Adopt-A-Park promotes a shared community responsibility to care for and protect our natural resources and have a direct hand in their sustainability and beautification.

“Adopt-A-Park evolved and was designed as a recurring, long-term commitment for volunteers seeking to make a difference in the park system overall, in parks near their neighborhoods, or as an organization’s initiative promoting volunteerism,” says May.

“We have individuals who take care of trails, families looking for a volunteer opportunity to impact a park near their home, and we have organizations that have taken on an entire park as their focus. It’s not one size fits all but each and every volunteer makes a difference.”


Once interest in the Adopt-A-Park program has been identified, shares May, the process begins with an application that will ultimately combine the interests of the volunteers matched with a CCPR park need. The commitment is usually for one year and the onboarding process includes a background check for the team leader and training.

“We’ve been able to add 11 new adopters in the course of the last year,” May says. “These volunteers, and the time they are investing, are making such a noticeable and valuable impact in our parks. Our hope is to grow Adopt-A-Park by inspiring others to get on board.”

During the pandemic, Nicole Sipe was searching for a way to get outside and keep her mental health strong. She began walking the trails of Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation and found that it was a wonderful way to support her physical and mental health. When she decided to become more than a trail walker and adopt part of the trail to maintain herself—it was a wonderful way to stay involved and beautify the natural areas she was enjoying every day.

Nicole Sipe and her family with their Adopt-A-Park sign along the Monon GreenwayChoosing to adopt my little portion of the Monon Greenway was an easy decision. I use the trail every day—it has given me so much, in the form of a safe and beautiful way to get outside, get fresh air, get exercise and enjoy nature. It makes me happy! So, I wanted to make sure that the trail is as beautiful as it can be. That’s why I joined the Adopt-A-Park program, and that’s why I volunteer to pick up the litter that I see on “my” portion of the trail. We’re fortunate that the parks and greenspaces in Carmel are extremely well cared for in general, so I don’t usually have much litter to pick up. But maintenance crews can’t be everywhere at all times, so I’m happy to do my part as a resident and trail lover.

When I first became an Adopt-A-Park volunteer and the sign with my name on it went up, I took my kids over to see it. My youngest son said, “I didn’t know that regular people could adopt a park!” I think that kind of sums up the Adopt-A-Park experience. Yes, regular people can (and should) adopt a park and make a difference in their community. We tend to think that the upkeep of public spaces is someone else’s job. But we all enjoy these beautiful natural areas. It’s our collective responsibility to be stewards of the earth.

The Adopt-A-Park program has given back to me, too. Since joining almost a year ago, I’ve gotten outdoors a lot more. Knowing that I have a little piece of land to take care of and watch over and knowing that my name is on the sign is good motivation to get out of the house and make sure that the area is clean. Because my adopted area is part of the Monon Greenway, it has encouraged me to walk a lot more and I’ve gotten to know many other regulars on the trail. I’ve had many people also come up to me and thank me for picking up litter. If you want to feel like you’re a part of the community and making a difference in your community, the Adopt-A-Park program is a great way to do that.

—Nicole Sipe


Written By: Sheryl Rodgers

Sheryl focuses on branding and marketing engagement. She’s a storyteller, editorial and media consultant, and brand builder. This story was written in partnership with Pickett & Associates.