Each year, the National Park Foundation (NPF) helps young adults from across the country spend a summer in a national park while participating in a service corps program. Working with locally-based organizations, crew members – young adults and veterans – work on projects that address recreation, conservation, disaster response, and community needs. Focusing on projects ranging from invasive species removal to historical preservation and trail restoration, the program provides on-the-job training, development of leadership skills, and a raised awareness about the myriad of public lands career paths.
Today’s crews follow in the footsteps of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a Great Depression-era federal work relief program that provided food, shelter, education, and a stipend to young men as they restored and enhanced public lands nationwide. Unlike the CCC, most present-day service corps are funded through public-private partnerships, such as those funded by NPF. Since 2018, NPF supported more than 130 Service Corps crews.
In recent years, NPF and our partners have expanded our support of a diverse network of service corps crews, building upon the impact of the crews that have contributed to the maintenance and transformation of our national parks. NPF also supports single-identity crews, which help people feel safe and comfortable as they explore parks and possible career paths. These include crews with participants who use American Sign Language, are LGBTQ+, Latinx, women, and Native American. In 2019, service corps crews built and restored over 250 miles of trail and planted more than 36,000 trees and other plant species – contributing over 74,000 hours of service to 30 national parks.
Recent Program Highlights
"Sea Sisters" Dive in at Biscayne
In the summer of 2021, with the support of NPF, a group of women veterans worked with NPS’ Submerged Resources Center to plant coral and remove seafloor debris under the waters of Biscayne National Park. With NPF’s support, the SRC’s WAVES Project is training women veterans to participate in diving missions in park
Rainbow Crew in the Pacific Northwest
Supported by NPF, the Northwest Youth Corps Rainbow Conservation Crew – comprised of youth and young adults who identify as LGBTQ, tackled maintenance projects at Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, and Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Said one crew member: “I have never felt this sense of radical autonomy and resilience.”
Conservation & Disaster Response in Big Thicket
During the summer of 2019, Texas Conservation Corps of American YouthWorks, supported by NPF, deployed a crew to Big Thicket National Preserve. Crews of local youth from Austin and Houston, ranging from ages 17-28, conducted critical trail work and restored the endangered Pitcher Plant.
Ancestral Lands Crew in Grand Canyon
While serving with Conservation Legacy as part of Arizona Conservation Corps’ Ancestral Lands crew, a group of Native American youth helped restore a boundary fence line that encircles Grand Canyon National Park. The crew, supported by NPF, inspected 26 miles of fence and removed 106 trees from the fence line, repairing and constructing nearly 4,000 feet of fence.
Women's Conservation Crews in Tennessee
Conservation Legacy’s first-ever women’s conservation crews, supported by NPF, built retaining walls, cleared and installed drains, and maintained trails at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in 2019. Said one crew member: “my crew reminded me that we can do anything we put our minds to.”