Begin Main Content Area

Love of the Outdoors Comes Full Circle for One Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps Crew Member

Tags: Youth
December 22, 2021 12:00 AM
By: River Missal, Crew Member, Wilkes-Barre and Cultural Resource Crews

Blog Header Image

I grew up native to northeastern Pennsylvania and found myself involved with the Scouts for 12 years during my youth. Throughout this time, I had developed many memorable moments in the outdoors.

For my final project with the Scouts, I renovated the town’s oldest camp, which included implementing kiosks that had information on local wildlife, bat-boxes, and tree identification posts along trails.

Shortly after this, I attended college at Bloomsburg University focusing on Archaeology and Geoscience.

After I graduated college, I found myself moving to Arizona for a year to experience a change of pace. It was here where I first learned about Americorps and various programs that operate in similar ways.

It was pretty neat -- the different organizations coming together such as state, federal, and nonprofits in order to create positive changes in communities across the country.

I had told my leaders that for my next step in life, I wanted to be working outdoors. That is when they referred me to the Student Conservation Association (SCA).

I was pretty impressed with all of the possibilities one organization could offer -- there were opportunities in every state!

After a bit of searching, I came across the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps, a program under the SCA that had conservation crews across the beautiful state of Pennsylvania.

I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw there was a crew stationed out of my hometown of Wilkes-Barre. I immediately applied for the position and heard back rather timely.

Before I knew it, I was offered a position to work for the Pa. Outdoor Corps on the Wilkes-Barre crew; and had to ask myself a more serious question -- how was I going to get from Arizona back to Wilkes-Barre? Well, that’s a story for another time, but the short version is -- I made it!

First Day -- Take One

My first day took place in a state forest rather than a state park, so we were completely surrounded by nature (mission accomplished). Our task was to establish the boundary line between state and private property.

This may sound easy; but let me assure you that it is also very easy to lose track of an invisible line running through more than 50 acres of forest.

I remember being nervous; but yet so excited on that first day. I was excited to be a part of something so great; but I was nervous that I would clip a branch the wrong way or find out it was a rare or endangered species that I had just snipped off.

Luckily, that wasn’t the case. I soon took to a pair of loppers the way a surfer does to the sea. I was in my own paradise, with waves of trees and ferns.

I would work my way through them as the foresters aligned the poles with the compass coordinates. By the end of my first week, I knew I belonged here.

What Followed

Fire tower, outdoors, nature

What followed was an amazing season encompassing an array of conservation projects. Some examples are rebuilding a fishing pier; restoring a historic fire tower; more than 100,000 feet of trail maintenance; invasive species removal; and more!

The SCA was able to highlight the variety of conservation work that the great state of Pennsylvania has to offer through the Outdoor Corps program.

I was able to engage in hands-on trainings and opportunities that enhanced my career skills in the field of conservation, some of which included: tree and plant identification; understanding the difference between native, non-native, and invasive species; use and safety of power tools; and how to interact with the public in various settings.

Day One -- Take Two

Outdoors, people, nature, tools, screen, grass

Towards the close of our season, I had the opportunity to test-run the new Cultural Resource Crew pilot program.

For a good three to four weeks, I was able to take part in archaeological excavations at Moraine and Ohiopyle state parks in order to expand their campground loops.

I have to admit, digging 30 holes a day wasn’t as glamorous as Indiana Jones had made it seem; but the work was vital as it served as the foundation for the well-needed Cultural Resource Crew which is set to launch next season.

Outdoors, nature, hole, dirt, ground, pit, people

The work that is lined up for this coming season will allow state parks and forests to deepen their representation of our state’s rich history, while also complying with federal and state regulations as it pertains to preservation.

The unique partnership between SCA and DCNR offers benefits to the workforce, environment, the public, and to taxpayers.

One-of-a-Kind Experience

Outdoors, nature, boat, kayaks, water, people

I have had a truly one-of-a-kind experience this season with the work I was able to complete through SCA.

Being able to work with earth materials as a part of conservation, such as constructing rocks walls, water bars, stone steps, and other forms of land reconstruction prior to the cultural resource aspect was very beneficial.

It allowed me to gain a better perspective on how someone 100 (or maybe even 1,000) years ago may have manipulated the land to their advantage as well.

What's Next?

I am looking to gain a post baccalaureate certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) from Penn State, as it is a desirable trait in both conservation and archaeology.

Seeing as I am interested in both, I believe this will be the right maneuver to allow me to keep tapping into both career fields while also furthering my education.

I have greatly enjoyed my time and benefited from my work accomplished with the SCA and DCNR partnership; and could definitely see myself here for another season while pursuing my GIS certificate.

Find more information about the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps on the DCNR website.


Share This