Quality and Good Intentions
Before you decide to use volunteers to maintain a large landscape, ask yourself this question. Are you willing to do manual labor outdoors for four hours for anyone for free? Are you willing to do this once every two weeks for nine months? If you are not willing to do this, then it will be difficult to find other people to volunteer for the commitment needed to maintain a high quality ornamental landscape.
That kind of commitment is rare for volunteer forces. It is difficult for most people to volunteer for more than once-or-twice-a-year, and a couple of work days a year is not enough to sustain the quality of an ornamental landscape site. You can imagine what you own home landscape would be like if it received only a couple of energetic clean ups a year. Coordinating a volunteer force of about fifty volunteers to meet the required need for a single public landscape takes a full-time effort for at least one paid person. The money would be better spent hiring a full-time gardener.
Volunteers have the best of intentions, but are often busy people with busy schedules. When an organization decides to rely solely on volunteers for landscape maintenance of their grounds, the site often deteriorates from lack of routine maintenance. It is difficult for volunteers to devote enough regular time to provide the labor required for hands-on maintenance of a landscape of substantial size. Volunteers are not always trained properly in pruning techniques and can damage existing shrubs and trees as they attack the task. Volunteers cannot provide consistent care for a landscape over time, but they can be helpful in other ways.
Extraordinary loyalty to a volunteer project is a beautiful thing to witness, and a landscape enhancement project is a worthy goal. If you have high hopes of maintaining a valuable ornamental landscape fueled by enthusiastic volunteers, focus their energy on raising funds for a professional landscape maintenance budget, and use your valuable volunteer labor in the most effective way possible. That way the group is engaged, and they can see positive results for their efforts.