Among the accomplishments last year: Improved 851 miles of trails, built another 34 miles, built or repaired 848 campsites, burned 32,000 acres, removed 296 miles of river obstructions, removed unwanted vegetation from 4,342 acres and planted 150,000 plants and trees.
“We have an awful lot of work out there,’’ said Peter Hark, Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails operations manager. “It’s critical getting that work done, but also connecting young people to the outdoors. This program does a phenomenal job of doing that.’’
Maclaine Sorden, 24, of Creston, Iowa, and Susie Krikava, 19, of Stillwater, were crew leaders for the nine Youth Corps members working at William O’Brien State Park last week. They will supervise a second group for another four-week program.
“It’s a wonderful job,’’ Krikava said. “I love working with youths.’’
Said Sorden: “They learn something they wouldn’t learn in a classroom.’’
A new experience
There is no shortage of young people willing to work.
“We get four applications for every opening,’’ said Green.
Working outdoors with their hands is a novel experience for many participants.
“Some have never been out of the cities,’’ Price said, watching the William O’Brien crew clear buckthorn near a park building. “Some haven’t been to a state park. A lot of these kids have never touched a hand tool.’’
Said Green: “They have to leave their cellphones and all electronics behind. We want them communicating with each other, not with friends back home. At first they’re a little panicked, but by the end they’re happy to give it up.’’
Thompson, the St. Paul teen, conceded that giving up her cellphone was difficult at first, “but after a while it wasn’t bad.’’
And she said she relished the experience, and bonding with her fellow crew members. “I’ll miss all these people,’’ she said.
Green said the Conservation Corps slogan on the back of the youths’ muddied and wet T-shirts best summed up the program:
“Resources restored, lives changed.’’
Doug Smith • firstname.lastname@example.org