How to get started

Everyone is welcome! No experience is needed. Want to learn more and help take care of the preserves? Join our community at workdays year-round, led by experienced North Branch volunteers.

Check the Map page to see locations for all the management sites where we work. Links on the map will bring up details about each site. Sign up for specific workdays on the FPCC website or RSVP on our website Calendar. There you’ll find many upcoming opportunities, each one with information and who to contact with questions.

A few sites have listed workdays that are by invitation only, but you can contact them and let them know you’re interested. If there’s room you may be able to join. And if you don’t find the answers you’re looking for on this page, be sure to send us a message on the Contact Us Page.


We welcome families and young children! Being out in nature is one of the best experiences we can offer our youth.

In order to make it a good experience for all, please contact the leader ahead of time. They can tell you what activities are planned and whether they are appropriate for youngsters of a specific age.

All youth under the age of 18 are currently required to be accompanied by a parent or guardian during the workday, or be part of an approved group that is joining the workday. When joining a workday, the parent should print the child’s name on the sign-in sheet and then sign for the child. The parent or guardian will be responsible for supervising the child during the workday.

When the youth is part of an organized group event, the group leader should fill out and sign the Group Waiver FPCC-Volunteer-Waiver-Agreement-Group-092513-1, and also provide the FPCC-Volunteer-Waiver-Student-Restoration-Field-Trip-100113-1 to the parents of all children in the group.

The completed and signed forms for the Group should be given to the Site Leader at the beginning of the workday.


All individuals should consider their level of risk for the COVID-19 virus prior to engaging in any volunteer service. Review the Forest Preserve’s COVID-19 page each day before volunteering for important updates and safety precautions.

Please DO NOT attempt to volunteer if in the last 14 days you have any of the symptoms related to COVID-19 as identified by the Centers for Disease Control  or have traveled to any foreign country or states with a high incidence of COVID-19 infections.


Activities vary with the different seasons. Fall and winter are prime time for cutting brush. Even on the coldest days, workers keep warm as the cut brush is piled and burned.

In late spring we begin pulling weeds, with garlic mustard being the earliest target. The bonus is enjoying wildflowers that often bloom and delight us around the same time.

In early summer, there are still weeds to be pulled. But that’s also when seed collecting begins, a mellow activity that many enjoy.

Weeds and seeds continue through late summer into autumn. November marks the end of harvest season, when the precious seeds collected over the growing season are combined into mixes that volunteers will hand sow into cleared areas.


Every workday is supervised by one or more experienced leaders. Many North Branch volunteers have been participating in the work for a number of years — some even for 30 or 40! We welcome questions and love talking about what we do and why we do it.

Our primary concern is making sure the work is carried out safely. Beyond that, we want you to enjoy the experience and come back for more workdays in the future!


Amenities Plan to bring your own drink and snack. Some leaders may also provide home-made treats!

Clothing Long pants, long sleeved shirt/jacket, hat/cap and sturdy shoes/boots are the fashion of the day. They’ll protect you when we’re working in rough areas and handling cut brush. Weather appropriate outerwear is always a good idea; sweatshirts, rain-wear and other garments can always be shed if they aren’t needed.

Skin protection Sunscreen and bug spray will add to your comfort both during the workday and when you get home. For those who are sensitive to poison ivy, protective creams for pre-exposure and post-exposure are widely available to be purchased. If you don’t know poison ivy, be sure to have someone show it to you.

Brushpiles Burning a pile of cut brush is an effective means of disposal.  Working around burning brushpiles deserves extra attention. Leaders at the workday will discuss safety beforehand. If you are not comfortable working around the brushpile, let one of the leaders know and they will have you work away from the fire. Some things to keep in mind: have a means to secure long hair; wear old clothes that can be replaced, since embers can make holes; avoid synthetic fabrics, choose natural fibers such as cotton or wool instead.


The leaders will have all the equipment that is needed for the workday.

Gloves The leaders will have sturdy gloves available for use during the workday. They are collected and usually cleaned after every workday. It’s also fine to bring your own gloves if you prefer.

Brush cutting Hand saws and loppers will distributed to individuals to use during the workday. Hatchets and axes are not allowed.

Seeds and weeds For pulling weeds or collecting seeds, gloves will be provided for those who want them, along with bags to collect the plants or seeds.


If the weather is truly extreme or poses a hazard, we will certainly cancel the workday. In practice that is not a common occurrence. If a workday is cancelled for any reason, that will be noted on the Calendar. The leader will make every effort to contact those who signed up, especially if it’s a last minute change,

In cold weather, physical activity plus a burning brushpile makes being outside very comfortable. Snowy winter days are especially pleasurable. A forecast of windy or extreme cold conditions may lead the steward to cancel the workday.

While heavy rain is not all that fun, the rain is often light and intermittent. It can even be refreshing to be outside then. Lightning and high winds, on the other hand, are clearly not safe and the event would be cancelled in that case.


Interested in taking on a bigger part in restoration workdays? There are numerous opportunities for leadership roles offered by Volunteer Resources through with free classes and certification. For more information, ask us or visit the Forest Preserve volunteer website.

Have a talent you’d like to put to good use? We always need photographers. Help with the website and social media is a great way to reach out. Leaders for tours and identification classes helps spread the word about our work. Specialized training equips monitors to gather important scientific information on rare plants, birds, dragonflies, butterflies or frogs.

Or suggest a new role where you see a need. It’s up to you!