two young women sit at a NPLD event welcome table filled with National Public Lands Day tshrits

NPLD Site Manager Guide: Hosting

Successfully Executing Your NPLD Event

Even if you've planned your entire event meticulously, things rarely go exactly as planned.

Don't worry! Remember that people attend your event to have a good time, to connect with others, and care for public lands.

Regardless, creating an event agenda (see the “Day of Event Documents”) is always a good idea to help you stay on schedule, even if there are some unexpected happenings.

Opening Ceremony at NPLD Events

All NPLD events should try to incorporate an opening ceremony designed to welcome volunteers and kick off the event. The opening ceremony is a great time to share information about the event location and help volunteers understand the impact of the work that they will be doing.

Things to consider during your opening ceremony:

  • What is National Public Lands Day?
    For many volunteers, this may be their first interaction with NPLD. Give an overview of NPLD and provide a few words about the importance of giving back to our nation’s public lands. Also, let volunteers know that they are a part of something bigger—let them know that they are part of a force of hundreds of thousands that will serve during NPLD!
  • Why are we here today?
    Emphasize why the work project and location are significant to the local community and ecosystem. Acknowledge and thank any local event partners.
  • Want to include a land acknowledgment?  Visit the Guide to Indigenous Land Acknowledgment that covers preparing and conducting an indigenous land acknowledgment at your NPLD event (Guide presented in partnership with USDAC).
  • Keep it brief and meaningful
    Aim to keep the speaking portion of the day under 20 minutes. While speaking remarks are a great way to communicate the importance of public lands and environmental stewardship, remember that volunteers came to your NPLD event to get their hands dirty, and they are anxious to get to work!
  • Keep it local
    No one tells the story of local public lands better than local residents. If possible, include a community member in the speaking agenda. Give them guidance to help keep the message brief, appropriate, and organized. Ask them to share what the park, forest, or green space means to the local community.
  • Health and nature
    Make the connection between improved health and increased time in nature.
  • Make it loud!
    Ask your agency contact if they have sound equipment you can borrow (a wireless mic, podium, or even a megaphone can work). 

If possible, also include a wrap-up at the end of the event. These remarks can be casual and consist of a simple thank-you for coming, addressed to volunteers over lunch. You may want to print out a certificate for volunteers and deliver it to them. If possible, also let volunteers know what they accomplished throughout the day. Ask event partners if they would like to join you in the acknowledgments.

Managing Risk at NPLD Events

NPLD Site Managers should aim to provide a meaningful experience for NPLD volunteers as well as complete important work for the parks. To do both successfully, people need to be kept safe.

As you plan your NPLD event, start to think about potential risks that your volunteers might encounter while completing the day’s work. Assess whether the project is appropriate for the skills and experience of the anticipated volunteers and if it will feel meaningful to them. In most cases, you should offer a project appropriate for volunteers of all ages and skill levels and one in which they can see the visible effects of their work. If the activity is above the ability of your group, NEEF recommends trying to identify an additional project(s) or site with your event partners.

Also consider the available tools in relation to the number of volunteers. All volunteers should be actively engaged throughout the event. If the number of tools required is prohibitive, seek out additional tool-free activities (picking up trash, pulling invasive plants) or move to a different project altogether.

Other factors to consider when choosing a project include anticipated weather conditions, proximity to restrooms and water, the skill level of leaders, park staff available to support the project, and the long-term impacts of the project.

Creating an Inclement Weather Plan

As the weather continues to become less predictable and increasingly severe, it’s important to have a severe weather plan. In addition to planning for a range of “typical” weather in your area during the time of your event, you should also have a contingency plan since severe weather can completely shut down an NPLD event. Here are five factors to consider when creating an inclement weather plan for your NPLD event.

  • Define “severe weather” for your event location
    Every event, every venue, every crowd, and every storm is different. What is considered severe weather in one location may not be considered severe weather in another. List every type of weather that could impact your event and then how severe it needs to be before you do something about it. Then determine exactly what you will do. It could be to bring everyone inside for a few minutes, or possibly you will cancel the event altogether.
    As a general rule, anything involving thunder or lightning is an immediate evacuation for outdoor events. Additionally, while you should heed warnings from officials, you shouldn’t wait for the National Weather Service to declare severe weather before you evacuate. If you think you see a storm brewing, play it safe, use good judgment, and get people out of there.
  • Determine how you will handle evacuations
    Define what occurrences would warrant an evacuation. What will you do with NPLD volunteers? What about equipment or tools? You need to know where to direct people during an emergency and how long it takes to get there. You should also know the stability of every structure in use at your event, so you know what extent of wind, hail, etc. it can handle. Once you have a plan for the people, you can draft a plan for what to do with your equipment.
  • Establish a communication plan
    How will people know what to do in the event of severe weather? Have several messages scripted and ready to go for different situations, but also be prepared to write incident-specific messaging on the fly. Have multiple means for communication, including audio, visual, and digital (i.e. text alerts).
  • Train your NPLD event team
    Everyone involved in the planning and execution of the event needs to know and practice what to do in the event of severe weather or another emergency. With more practice, everyone will be calmer and faster if an actual emergency occurs. Try to run at least one practice exercise in which you time how long it takes to prepare for severe weather. Remember, it will always take longer than you expect when volunteers are involved.
  • Decide if, and when, the event will resume
    How will you determine if and when the event will resume? Was anything damaged? Do safety inspections need to be performed? Can you postpone? Do you have an alternate venue? How will you let attendees know whether the event will resume? Knowing the answers to these questions ahead of time will make these decisions easier when you’re under pressure and everyone’s waiting on you to make the call.

Day of the Event Documents

Sample NPLD Event Agenda 

National Public Lands Day at NEEF

7:50 a.m. Event staff arrives to get project instructions and help set up the volunteer welcome table.
8:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. Participants arrive
Volunteer registration opens
8:45 a.m. VIP guests and speakers arrive
9:00 a.m. - 9:25 a.m. Opening Ceremony (each speaker will have approximately 3-5 minutes)

  • Introductions - CEO, NEEF
  • Welcome to the Park!
    Park Superintendent, National Park Service
  • Welcome to Our Community!
    Local Resident
9:25 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. Safety briefing & project instructions for volunteers
9:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
  • Project work begins! Volunteers break into groups and head to their project sites.
  • Project leaders will greet and brief the volunteers on the work plan & safety for their project.
12:15 p.m. - 12:30 p.m.
  • End of volunteer service
  • Projects wrap-up
12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. Picnic style lunch
1:30 p.m.
  • Event ends
    Thank everyone for participating
  • Volunteers are welcome to stay at the park to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.


Sample Event Day Checklist

  • Arrive on site and check in with park partners
  • Set up registration tables with tablecloths, signage, etc.
  • Select and set up a staging area for remarks and group photo
  • Assemble banners and place signage as necessary to direct volunteers to check-in
  • Assign leaders as needed to direct volunteers to check-in
  • Assign staff and leaders as needed at the registration table (ideally one person to check in registered volunteers and one person to handle any new registrations)
  • Check your registration system to make sure everything is ready for check-in
  • Lay out hard-copy waivers if needed for new registrations
  • Lay out colored stickers to designate work groups (Giving each volunteer a colored sticker as they check in makes it MUCH easier to break up the groups quickly to start the projects—no count-offs or shuffling required!)
  • Fill and place water coolers
  • Lay out snacks, gloves, and any other NPLD materials
  • Make sure all leaders understand their on-site assignments and work tasks
  • Work with park partners to make sure all tools and supplies are staged at each work site
  • Make sure all leaders have stocked medical kits with updated Emergency Response Plans (ERPs)
  • Make sure all leaders are prepared to give brief safety talks covering tool use and any potential hazards on site
  • Send initial photos/messages to NPLD social media team for real-time event coverage throughout the day. Make sure all volunteers featured in each photo have signed NEEF's Media Release Form.


Sample Talking Points

Here are some talking points that you can incorporate into the opening ceremony for your NPLD Event:

  • National Public Lands Day promotes the connection between people and the environment by inviting everyone to get outside and spend the day caring for and enjoying the outdoors. Volunteers at sites throughout the country will roll up their sleeves and dig into trail maintenance and planting projects, trash pick-ups, river clean-ups, and other refurbishing activities aimed at restoring public lands and making them more resilient. The day will also feature a variety of education, health, and recreation activities—all set on the backdrop of the country’s public lands and waterways.
  • Through volunteer service on National Public Lands Day as well as grant support to local organizations, NEEF helps people of all ages and abilities connect with public lands for recreation, hands-on learning, and community-building now and in the future.
  • America’s public lands aren’t the only ones that benefit from National Public Lands Day. Nature offers one of the most reliable boosts to mental and physical wellbeing. Spending time in the outdoors has been found to improve short-term memory, concentration and creativity—while reducing the effects of stress and anxiety. Volunteering on NPLD is a great opportunity to spend time with family and friends and enjoy the many benefits that come from connecting with nature.


Sample Emergency Response Plan

NPLD Event Details

Event Description
This is a 200-person volunteer event with Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Volunteers will be thinning water lilies, removing invasive plants and picking up trash. Volunteers have signed up online and will check in as they arrive and will receive gloves, t-shirts, and work assignments. Snacks will be provided in the registration area. A short program of remarks will begin at 9:00 a.m. There will be colored flags designated for each project and, after the remarks, people will meet their groups at the flags to get direction from their team leaders. Work will happen between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and pre-packaged sandwich lunches will be provided in the picnic area at the end of the work period, along with music from the East of the River Steel Band.

Date and Time
Saturday, September 24, 2022, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Event Location
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, 1550 Anacostia Ave NE, Washington, DC 20019

Estimated Number of Participants

Primary Event Leader
John Smith
Park Ranger, Big Fun State Park

Other Leaders
10 additional project leaders on-site

Leader to participant ratio met?
Yes (1 leader for every 20 volunteers)


When applicable, remember to review this with participants and other leaders!

  1. Check the scene of the incident to ensure it is safe and stable
  2. Call 9-1-1
  3. Call the Primary Event Leader(s) listed above ASAP
  4. Care for patient until medics arrive (if necessary, send a leader with patient to hospital)


  1. Location of nearest public phone
    Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens Visitor’s Center
  2. Location of nearest first-aid kit
    There should be one first-aid kit with each project leader at all times.
  3. Location of nearest Automated External Defibrillator (AED)
    Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens Visitor’s Center.
  4. Location of nearest hospital
    Prince George's Hospital Center
    3001 Hospital Drive
    Cheverly, Maryland 20785
    Phone: (301) 618-2000


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