Volunteers-In-Park: Kinnell

by Marianne (Marnie) Sciamanda, Community Volunteer Ambassador (AmeriCorps) for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area


Meet Kinnell, a volunteer crew leader at Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. Kinnell began volunteering at the park after learning about the opportunity through a RAVE (River Action Volunteer Event) where he canoed on the Mississippi River. Since then, he has been involved in a variety of volunteer activities at the park from restoration crews to wildlife surveys, but he still considers canoe trips on the river as his favorite. Canoe trips, he says, provide a unique opportunity that many people in the Twin Cities have not experienced– being on the Mississippi River.

Besides having fun on the river, Kinnell enjoys volunteering because it is a way to inspire the next generation of environmental leaders and volunteers. As a kid, Kinnell was first exposed to the power of parks through a state park ranger, who led him and others to appreciate parks through walks in the woods. He hopes he can do similar work through volunteering to inspire the next generation much like he was inspired at a young age.

One type of volunteer event that stands out to Kinnell are tree plantings, because these events connect people to the land on a long-term scale. He finds activities like plantings or invasive species removal especially impactful because you can observe the results of your hard work through changes in the landscape. His experience volunteering at the park has even driven him to pursue his dream of starting his own tree farm to benefit the local landscape.

Volunteering with the park has helped him discover new sites along the river, including his two favorite places in the corridor—the Vermillion River Slough area south of Hastings, and River Lake in Inver Grove Heights. Both of these areas are unique natural areas in the park south of the Twin Cities where Kinnell has participated in wildlife surveys. He credits the natural areas and wildlife value of both places as reasons for why they are his favorites.

Kinnell thinks that anyone interested in volunteering at the park “should give it a shot” because you can learn a lot about the landscape, and also about yourself.