What is stewardship? Stewardship is the responsibility or role of taking care of something.
So, what is park stewardship? It’s the conservation of our natural resources over an extended period. It is caring for the land, air, and water that make up our parks.
We value stewardship as an essential role to keep our parks and natural resources viable and beautiful for future generations. Our park stewardship programming protects and upholds the natural areas in our parks by engaging our community in park stewardship volunteer opportunities and teaching about natural resources and their importance through nature education programs.
We invite you to explore our park stewardship pages to learn more about our land’s natural history, our efforts to sustain our resources, and even ways for you to support native habitat in your own backyard!
Become a Park Steward
Do you want to contribute to managing the 700+ acres across our parks and greenways? Join us as a park steward volunteer! Engaging with our park stewardship program will teach you transferrable life skills and ensure you are making a difference for the land in our parks while leaving them healthier for future generations.
Seasonal Stories + Activities
Three Ways Animals Sleep through the Winter
How do you spend your winter? Maybe you wear extra layers when you go outside so you don’t get cold. Maybe you have a ravenous appetite and fill up on comfort food. Or maybe you prefer to skip the season entirely and vacation somewhere tropical until spring. Animals navigate the harsh conditions of winter a lot like we do, whether that means wearing a thick winter coat, putting on a little extra weight or migrating south. But the most interesting survival strategy is unique to the animal kingdom; let’s learn about three ways animals sleep through the winter.
True Hibernation: A Long Snooze till Spring
There are several factors that make true hibernation unique and somewhat rare. Animals in hibernation put on enough fat to last several months without food, then go into a deep sleep and don’t wake again until spring. Hibernators don’t wake up for any reason during their long winter nap — not even to eat or use the bathroom.
Torpor: Waking up for a Snack Break
Think of torpor as a sort of mini-hibernation. While true hibernation lasts through the winter, torpor only lasts for a few days or weeks. Animals in torpor get up periodically when the temperature rises or food becomes less scarce.
What is another major difference between true hibernation and torpor? Torpor is involuntary. While we still don’t know everything about the biology behind torpor scientists believe that animals go into torpor involuntarily while true hibernation is a state that animals choose to enter.
Brumation: Cozy Cold-Blooded Critters
Brumation isn’t technically a form of hibernation, but it’s close. Only cold-blooded animals such as amphibians and reptiles brumate. Mammals do not brumate.
Cold-blooded critters might only brumate for a month or two which is more sporadic than mammals. Brumating animals eat less food before going to sleep whereas hibernating animals eat a lot more. This is because they must be able to live off that fat for several months while they’re asleep.
Also, you won’t find a brumating animal cuddled up in a cave or burrow. Amphibians and reptiles brumate in some pretty strange ways. Some species of frogs spend the winter at the bottom of a lake burrowed into the mud. One remarkable species of frog, the wood frog, freezes solid during the winter and thaws out in the spring. While we may not go to sleep until spring, some animals do.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I submit my volunteer hours?
If you are already a volunteer with us, you can log in to your NEON account and input your hours.
Here’s a full tutorial on how to create an account and log your hours.
What kind of time commitment am I signing up for?
We have one-time opportunities to give back to the parks for those who do not have unlimited time to give. We also have long-term opportunities for volunteers to become fully engaged in our Citizen Science and Park Stewardship programs. These volunteers are the ones we engage with regularly. These folks are the eyes and ears of our parks helping grow our programs long-term.
What if I sign up for an activity and it says I'm on a waiting list?
To ensure we have the appropriate number of volunteers for a given project, we set deadlines for Park Stewardship activities. If you sign up and are put on a waiting list, you will be notified if a spot becomes available.
Are there age requirements for park steward volunteers?
Anyone can be a park steward volunteer! Park Stewardship is for everyone, and we welcome all. If you are younger than 16, you are required to have a parent/guardian attend the event with you.
Who do you partner with in your conservation efforts?
Conservation is not a one-stop-shop. Plants and animals do not know fence lines or parcel boundaries. They are fluid and they are located where they are going to thrive. We engage with several community and state partners to move our mission forward. It is important to work together to achieve success when we all have a similar end goal–the long-term sustainability and ecological balance of our natural resources.
Partners we work with to help move conservation forward:
- Indiana DNR
- Indiana Native Plant Society
- Southern Indiana Cooperative Invasive Management
- Hamilton County Soil & Water Conservation District
- Hamilton County Invasives Partnership
- USDA Farm Service Agency
- Natural Resources Conservation Services
- Pollinator Partnership
We’ve told you about some of our partnerships; now we’d like to hear from you. If you have a conservation success story to share or perhaps a shout out to a conservation partner, we’d like to hear! Submit your feedback here.
Why do you mow behind the "Grow Don’t Mow" sign?
The prairie ecosystems that we foster across our various properties require periodic mowing to help us control invasive species and foster new native growth. When the prairies are left to fend for themselves unfortunately certain unwanted and aggressive invasives like Callery Pear can get a hold on an area and spread quickly. By mowing periodically we keep invasive species in check from becoming larger and more expensive removal challenges. It also simulates what wildfire or prescribed fire management techniques can do to restore a landscape. While not as beneficial as fire, the periodic mowing does not hurt the perennial native grasses and forbes that are growing in the prairie ecosystems and helps establish a blank slate for new growth each year. We strive to accomplish our maintenance mowing during seasons where birds are not actively nesting and the ground is not too soft where ruts could occur. The best time of year for this tends to be late fall or winter and early spring.
Why is there so much tall grass around the parks?
Glad you asked! This is called prairie. Prairie is a specific habitat type found in Indiana. Prairie once took over the northernmost portion of our state and even extended down to the northernmost half of Hamilton County. Prairie is a very important ecosystem that houses plants with long taproots that hold the soil in place and prevent erosion. These same plants provide food and shelter for wildlife and are excellent hosts for native pollinator species like bees, butterflies, wasps, and bats.
There are different types of prairie located across our state and even within our parks! What differentiates types of prairie? It primarily comes down to soil type and moisture. Many plants will grow in multiple categories of prairie, so there are some areas of overlap between species that thrive in different prairie environments.
Prairie Meadow Park is considered a dry prairie. The park was named, rightly so, because a majority of its five acres are planted in prairie. This park has little shade in the open parts of the prairie so only species that can tolerate very dry soil and full sun will thrive. Species such as butterfly milkweed and beebalm thrive here due to their drought tolerance.
On the west side of Central Park, you’ll find a mesic prairie. This is a kind of in-between prairie, not totally dry or wet. You’ll notice an array of prairie species including compass plant, gray-headed coneflower, and prairie dock, but also swamp milkweed, New England Aster, and leadplant. The first three species listed can typically tolerate dryer soils and the latter three species typically tolerate more moist soil conditions.
At West Park, around the bases of the ponds, we have wet-mesic prairie. This prairie consists of species that tolerate dry soil on higher elevations and closer to the pond edges there are species that are water tolerant. Close to the water’s edge you might spot species including lizards tail, obedient plant, and water plantain.
I love volunteering with Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation because I enjoy making the parks beautiful and getting rid of invasive plants. I love the way Carmel has let things grow wild and there is so much beauty in that kind of landscaping. Letting native plants thrive allows for the parks to be colorful year-round! I enjoy weeding and love the camaraderie of getting to do so with others to keep the parks beautiful!
I have been a volunteer with Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation for around 6 years. I like to keep a clean park and I don’t like the weeds! I am retired so I have some time. I enjoy being outdoors and giving my time to parks near me. I say “do it!” when it comes to becoming a volunteer, especially if you are retired and can give some of your time.
When I saw CCPR’s call-out for volunteers to help plant trees on Arbor Day and to work on teams cleaning up the land running alongside the Monon Greenway, I knew this was something I was interested in and wanted to be a part of. From there I got interested in invasives, and wanted to learn more about how all this interacted. I finished CCPR’s eight-week Indiana Master Naturalist (IMN) course where you learn everything from soil to pollinators to water and all the different aspects of how these natural resources are interconnected. It will take a collaborative effort to begin to tackle our invasive species problems going forward. It’s a complicated and layered challenge. We have to educate the community, volunteers and homeowners associations and move toward a preventative mindset. We need to go back to planting the right plants that can assist in maintaining a balance in our natural habitats and commit to returning those to what they need to be through a global vision.
Meet the Team
Park Operations Manager
Have a question about citizen science, natural resources or invasive species? Contact Jerry.
Have a question about volunteering with Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation? Contact Abby.
Parks & Natural Resources Director
Contact for questions regarding division priorities, data or management plans.