Wildlife Prairie Park is a premier zoological park and nature center that provides transformational experiences to anyone in the Midwest. One of the greatest benefits of volunteering at Wildlife Prairie Park is the satisfaction of knowing you are giving back to one of the most unique and valued parks in the area and a landmark in Peoria’s history. Park volunteers also benefit from expanding social circles, lasting friendships, and the opportunity to work outside (if they desire) and alongside knowledgeable staff and volunteers. Volunteers also receive thanks and recognition throughout the year in several different ways.
Grab your work gloves and help spruce up the Park you love! At least once a month during our busy season, we need volunteers to help us clean up an area of our 1,800 acre Park.
No experience necessary! Volunteer Workdays do not require regular commitments. Just sign up for as many Volunteer Workdays as you want. We welcome individuals 18 years and older and minors with a parent or guardian to sign up for Volunteer Workdays at the Park.
If you are interested in volunteering on a regular basis for any of the Volunteer Opportunities, please complete our online volunteer application. We welcome individuals 18 years and older or 16 years old with a parent or guardian to become regular volunteers at the Park.
For your safety, you will team up with the maintenance staff for training. Our experts will instruct you on safe usage of power trimming equipment, hand saws, pruning saws, trail tools, mowers, and other equipment we use often. Attention will be given to proper attire for the job and personal protection equipment. We will do a quick “hands on” session for demonstration purposes.
The 1,800 acres of Wildlife Prairie Park includes a 20-site campground, various lodging, fire pits, pavilions, animal enclosures, an 18-hole disc golf course, a train track corridor, parking islands, parking lots, playgrounds, 20+ miles of trails and SO MUCH GRASS! There are many spots that our big mowers just will not fit! Trimming around all of these obstacles gives the park a clean, well-kept appearance that really adds to our guests’ experience, especially those in lodging and camping. We need volunteers to help weed eat, trim and push mow weekly throughout the summer.
Many of the park’s structures need a deep cleaning and routine attention. Volunteers are needed to pressure wash our many benches, picnic tables, plexiglass overlooks, pavilions, outbuildings, and signs throughout the park and to routinely maintain their cleanliness. Help painting or staining those that need a fresh look is also needed. Volunteers can work independently after a brief instruction of pressure washer operation as well as the location of hoses, extension cords and the nearest electrical outlets available where they will be working. We would like Beautification volunteers to start this project as soon as the weather permits.
This volunteer opportunity is for gardeners and landscape enthusiasts. Our goal is to improve and maintain our many flower beds, especially around the brick area at the Visitor’s Center. Knowledge of native plants and flowers is helpful. Train along side our knowledgeable volunteers and the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners. You will be able to volunteer as often and as much as you are able. Tasks will be as follows:
Spring Clean-Up: Removal of sticks, leaves and weeds; trimming and management of last season’s viable plant growth.
Spring Planting: Planning, acquiring plants or seeds, planting, marking planted locations, watering, and mulching as needed.
Summer Maintenance: Weeding plus stick and debris removal (weekly)
Fall Clean-Up: Leaf removal and winter prep of beds.
With over 20 miles of trails subject to frequent storms and fertile midwestern soil, it is a never-ending battle to keep them clear and enjoyable for our guests. Trail Maintenance Volunteers should be capable of walking long distances over tough terrain while carrying tools. Tasks include removal of brush, debris, limbs, and deadfall and trimming of growth in areas unreachable by park mowers. Trail maintenance groups will meet weekly or immediately following a destructive storm.
Want to make a huge, noticeable difference in the beauty of the park? Years of growth of invasive species have blocked the once beautiful views of the park’s lakes and overlooks and has made access a challenge in several areas. Teamwork prevails with this job, one to cut, one to drag or even groups of up to 10 working together. ISR volunteers will be cutting, removing, and piling brush. The terrain will often be rough and challenging for those with balance issues. ISR volunteers will meet every two weeks.
Operate the park’s one-third scale train ride experience. After coming to see the animals, many believe the train to be the next biggest attraction! As a train engineer, you will be at the forefront of offering park guests a very popular and memorable experience. Operating the locomotive is only one of the highlights of this volunteer opportunity. Other duties include keeping the train running safely and on time, selling and punching tickets, running audio announcements, monitoring the Railroad Museum, keeping the Train Depot clean and organized, and interacting with guests by being a great promoter of the park and what it has to offer. Many times, guests ride the train first, so the engineers have the great opportunity to preview everything happening at the park before the guests begin their adventure. Being a 40–60-minute ride, engineers have a lot of face time with guests and thus many opportunities for interaction.
With over a mile of track, 7 switches, 2 locomotives, 9 passenger cars, and 2 freight cars, there is much maintenance to do to maintain safe, daily operation. If you are interested in more general work, or specific down-and-dirty maintenance, this volunteer job has it all.
The 24 inches between the rails is key to keeping the train on the track. This is accomplished with the countless wooden crossties along the route holding the rails in place with bolts. When these ties begin to rot, the bolts no longer have a firm hold on the rails and allow them to grow closer together or further apart. To combat this problem, tie replacement is a never-ending, heavy-lift job that can literally be done every day. This is a simple but strenuous job and one of the most important maintenance activities. The railroad could always use extra sidetracks and passing tracks, so learning how to lay track is another possibility.
The “steam” locomotive is propelled by a Caterpillar Diesel engine, while the “diesel” locomotive is propelled by a Chevy Cobalt gasoline engine. Running a daily train schedule, both require regular maintenance, and as they have been in operation for many years, repairs do crop up from time to time. If you have a love of engines even without an interest in trains, there is much to see and do in this area.
Five passenger cars were built by Chance Rides out of Wichita, Kansas and used to run at the St. Louis Zoo years ago. The remaining four passenger cars were built by Sandley Light Railway Equipment Works of Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, and were acquired from the Milwaukee County Zoo. These roll-on heavy railroad style 4-wheel trucks and utilize air brakes and drawbar couplers.
Wildlife Prairie Park conducts many special events throughout the year. These events often take place on weekends and allow guests to experience the Park in a new and different way. Volunteer help is always needed to ensure these events run smoothly and are successfully set up and cleaned up. Volunteer duties often vary on the type of event and time of year but can include decorating, taking tickets, passing out Halloween candy, filling Easter Eggs, making crafts, directing parking and other various jobs. Some of our events include, Wildlife Scary Park, Art in the Wild, Pioneer Days, Santa’s Wildlife Express and many more!
The Adventure Store is a retail store run entirely by volunteers. We provide financial support to the Park through the profit from our sales, and as another attraction for Park visitors. We feature a variety of gifts, toys, food and candy, jewelry, books, and clothing and hats that reflect features in our park and entice purchasing.
Our volunteers clerk, run the cash register, bag, maintain displays and the store, and assist buyers and supervisors. Training is provided through job shadowing. We also maintain a garden outside our store. We have a flexible volunteer schedule with shifts of 3-4 hours. We are looking for volunteers with patience and who are comfortable with customers of all ages, especially children. Good customer service is a priority in our store.
After training, this is a paid volunteer experience. We are looking for people interested in management and customer service. Prior experience is helpful. This person will be needed 2-3 days a week (could include Saturday and Sunday), and 4-6ll hours each day. Training is provided by job shadowing. Responsibilities will include opening and closing the store, overseeing volunteers, and restocking. Problem – solving skills and working appropriately with others are expected.
Wildlife Prairie Park has several museums on campus that require volunteer help to keep open for the public. We are looking or people who love learning about the park history, artifacts, and environment and sharing it with others. The Visitor’s Center Museum, Zeine Log Cabin, School House, and Railroad Museum shed light on our area’s history and are great educational places for guests. The park also boasts a tremendous art and sculpture collection throughout the grounds. We are looking for guides who are willing to take guests around the park on our bus or wagon to see all the art the park has to offer.
One of the Park’s most popular exhibits is the Kim St. John Butterfly House and its beautiful gardens. Upkeep of this structure, gardens and butterfly habitat is led by the Master Gardeners through the University of Illinois Extension Project. In addition to garden and butterfly maintenance, volunteers regularly check the function of fans, pumps, and the hot-wire and act as docents, answering questions for all the curious guests who come through.
Spend time walking around the animal trails and interacting with the guests! Share your knowledge about the Park, animal facts, specific information about our animals, our animals’ favorite hiding spots and more with guests in a friendly, positive, and respectful manner. After training, you will be partnered with another volunteer for your first Trail Guide shift. Offer friendly reminders when guests need to be more respectful of the animals and Park rules. As a trail guide, you will be able to volunteer at least once every 2 weeks.
Help the animal keepers care for the animals by preparing animal diets, washing dishes, sprucing up the kitchen, and potentially help with small projects. Preparing animal diets includes cutting up all kinds of meat, gutting whole prey, chopping up fruits and veggies, and handling different grains for diets. This position requires the volunteer to follow the diet sheets and to measure and weigh food items. As an animal kitchen volunteer, you will be able to volunteer for a 3hr shift every week.
Our volunteers do not handle animals, do not work directly with animals, and are not involved in animal husbandry. If you are interested in gaining hands-on experience working with animals for your career development, and are currently enrolled in a university degree program, consider Internship Program. If interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.