A Summer of Meaningful Service
National parks offer a variety of powerful place-based learning experiences including the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps. Through this program, youth and veterans work in parks learning technical and leadership skills while also protecting, restoring, and enhancing our national parks.
The unique initiative exposes corps members to training as they contribute to conservation and restoration work on national park lands, waterways, and cultural heritage sites. Participants often reflect on their work as being rewarding and formative; as they work to protect our national parks, they simultaneously develop valuable skills and a lifetime passion for parks.
This summer, the National Park Foundation supported several youth corps across the National Park System.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks' corps program recruits disadvantaged youth aged 18-24 to work in the back country of the park. For many of these young adults, this is their first employment opportunity. With the mentorship and technical oversight of National Park Service employees, the recruits worked on exotic vegetation removal, trail maintenance, and assessing boundary fencing. The program also teaches corps members about various subjects ranging from healthy food choices to the biology and history of their work sites.
Crew leader Jeremy Rogers shared, “I learned so much about myself that I couldn’t have in the city. I have physically prepared myself for any job. This trip was life changing and I made lifelong friendships.”
At Rocky Mountain National Park, the youth conservation corps are working to rehabilitate the Bierstadt Lake Trail to improve visitor safety and satisfaction. The two-year project will improve outdated trail infrastructure, mitigate resource damage, and construct retaining walls, tread maintenance, and rehabilitation of social trails. The focus of this summer’s youth crew was stabilizing trails in preparation for next summer’s rehabilitation efforts.
The service corps at Mount Rainier National Park worked on the 93-mile-long Wonderland Trail this summer. The trail crosses dense forests and ascends through subalpine meadows, offering spectacular views of Mount Rainier, and features indigenous rock and native wood. The park has a backlog of work to be done on the trail and crew members aged 18-21 worked on a variety of projects to protect and extend the life of this beloved trail. The crew’s efforts focused on repairing tread and a bridge, grading, stabilization, removing vegetation, and drainage issues on the trail.
Crew member Omar Nyctea shared, “I get the fulfillment of working hard and also the fulfillment of doing work I love in a place that I love. It can’t get any better. I’m going to remember this job as probably one of my favorites ever.”
The work done by the crew will have long-term benefits for hikers using the trail at Mount Rainier and will allow youth to understand that park historic value, design process, and standards for trail work.
The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps program is a valuable program that provides unique skills, career opportunities, and inspires stewardship of our national parks. Help us support programs that encourage youth and community members to get outside inspire the next generation of stewards for our national parks.