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Daily Plant Masthead

Volume XXIX, Number 6046
Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014

Natural Areas Volunteer In The Spotlight

Paul Herther, February 2014

Natural Areas Volunteers (NAV), part of Parks’ Natural Resources Group, is a service program that recruits, trains, and supports volunteers for ecological projects across the city. Natural Areas Volunteers help keep New York City’s forests, wetlands, and coastlines thriving by removing harmful invasive exotic vegetation; planting native trees, shrubs and grasses, caring for street tree beds and removing debris from our wetlands.

Our Natural Areas Volunteer in the Spotlight for this quarter is Paul Herther.

Why do you volunteer with NAV?

I volunteer as a NAVigator, since I work in an office all day; I enjoy the fresh air and peace of working in the forest in Van Cortlandt Park. The area I work in is easy to get to (on a good bus line) but is strangely little used. It is not uncommon that I spend a few hours there without seeing anyone, which is a rare treat in New York City.

NAVigators are our top-tier, dedicated volunteers who adopt reforestation sites. NAVigators receive training in invasive weed identification and removal techniques in return for a commitment to volunteer at least 12 independent hours at their adopted sites and report on the work they complete.

What do you like most about volunteering with us?

I like being free to work at my own pace and on my own schedule. For example, in the summer I try to get to the park early and have a solid session before it gets hot, and this program allows for that. I also understand that most people would rather not work alone and the program allows for that too. The recognition that there is independence and flexibility is a strong point of the program.

What would you like to tell others about your experience?

Since there is a lot of work to be done and not a lot of volunteers: each volunteer can find a spot within the program that needs them. You do not have to take a defined slot or anything like that, which is a problem with many volunteer situations. It is almost as if there are no limits to what we can do.

When I started as a NAVigator a few years ago (2010), the site I work at now, was a much smaller area and I learned it well. I have worked there through a very dry year and I have worked there years when everything seemed to do well. It is interesting to watch how the site continues to evolve; that is probably the thing I like best about the program. Part of the original site is nearly mature and now requires little maintenance from me. I do a run-through for stray weeds, etc. If someone was entering the program now, I would suggest that they identify an area that they would work in and learn until it gets to a maintenance level and then push out the edges as they feel able.

Is there anything interesting about yourself that you would like to share?

I enjoy the work and I am glad I can do it.

Paul led our citywide NAVigators by logging 93 volunteer hours in 2013!

If you or someone you know would like to volunteer with NAV, please visit our website, (, search for 'natural areas volunteers'), e-mail us at, or call us at (212) 360-3318.

Interview conducted by Jannelle McCoy,

Natural Areas Volunteers Parks Conservation Corps Member


"One reason I don't drink is that I want to know when I am having a good time."

Nancy Astor

(1879 - 1964)

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