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Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps Young Adult Members Learn Jobs Skills and Future Paths to Conservation Work

Tags: Youth
December 27, 2023 12:00 AM
By: Morgan Allgrove-Hodges, William and Hannah Penn Fellow in DCNR Policy Office

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​The nine-month Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps young adult crews wrapped up their work in Pennsylvania state parks and forests and other public lands this month.

Two unique crews from the 2023 season -- called the “roving trail crew” made up of Philadelphia young adults and a “roving resource management crew” made up of Harrisburg young adults -- spent the year traveling across the Commonwealth specifically working only on trails and other projects.

The roving trail crew completed projects and activities in 12 locations across the state, including Michaux, Buchanan, Bald Eagle, Tioga, and Gallitzin state forests; Laurel Hill, Chapman, Marsh Creek, Keystone, and French Creek state parks; and the Allegheny National Forest and Appalachian Trail.

Two young men kneel on ground to move large rock into the trail.
Crew leaders Vincent R. and Matthew L. move a large rock into place to create a natural step in the trail.

Their work was mostly focused on single track trail establishment and rehabilitation; however, other opportunities, including pole building and pavilion construction projects, exposed crew members to aspects of trade skills, thereby rounding out their experience.

The resource management crew completed projects and activities in 14 locations across the state, including Cornplanter and Michaux state forests and the Mira Lloyd Dock Conservation Center; Ohiopyle, Blue Knob, Whipple Dam, Marsh Creek, Benjamin Rush, Keystone, and French Creek state parks; and the Allegheny National Forest and Appalachian Trail.

This crew focused mainly on invasive species and habitat management projects. Like (and at times in conjunction with) the roving trail crew, they also performed construction projects and participated in Leave No Trace Training in partnership with the Allegheny National Forest.

These crews would set out for week-long ‘hitches’ where they would typically camp near their worksite until it was time to move onto another job at another location.

DCNR staff recently had an opportunity to spend time with these roving crew members and hear from them about what this unique experience meant to them.

Learning Job Skills and About Jobs in the Outdoor Industry

For many, this experience exposed them to various types of jobs that exist in the outdoor industry.

Some crew members even gained certification in first aid, herbicide application, and use of chainsaws.

Crew member, David, said, “I knew there were state parks around me, but I didn’t know all the jobs that they had. So [now] I know a lot more about what I would like to do in a state park…I just knew [about the] park ranger and maintenance. There’s a lot more to it.”

Some of the biggest takeaways they learned doing this traveling work include:

  • Realizing how important teamwork and communication is
  • Learning how to work with people
  • Networking and working with industry partners.

Crew member Lydia shared how she gained skills in, “Building time management. Also, patience, adaptability…a lot of interpersonal skills…this is like a very social job, which is really nice.”

Young woman and man use tools to clear a section of trail in woods.
Crew members Lydia L. and Spencer L. clear leaves and roots from a new section of trail.

Crew member Vince noted that learning to work with people and manage a crew were important skills that he gained. Vince said, “Conservation is not just about one person, there’s a team aspect.”

What’s Next for the Roving Trail Members?

What’s next for these roving trail crew members? Unsurprisingly, many of them are interested in careers in the outdoor workforce.

A few, like David, are considering applying to the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps for another year. David said, “I see way more paths than I did before. I thought only the only thing I really could do was go to school, but there’s all this stuff [where I] don’t need it.”

Lydia is applying to graduate schools to become a scientist, and the skills she learned from this experience will help her in her future endeavors, including project management, team building, and time management.

Crew member Lin is thinking of a career in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources or attending a trade school.

Young woman wearing hardhat uses a trail tookl with a long handle to level a section of trail.
Crew member Lin N. levels the tread for a new section of trail.

Cew member Vince said, “I’d love to stay on the trails in some way. Trails are definitely my passion.”

No matter where they end up, almost everyone mentioned wanting to continue to work in the outdoors.

As David said, “I’ll never forget this. Truly, I didn’t come in thinking anything of it. Or, like, not too much of it…but, you know, I feel like I ended up almost with a family.”

Learn More About the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps

Recruiting is happening now for next year’s nine-month Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps young adult crews at locations across the state.

There will not be any roving trail or resource management crews that travel and work at different locations across the state in 2024; however, crew members still get to travel to different locations locally and work on public lands.

The Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps offers paid work experience, skills training, professional development, and environmental educational opportunities to youth and young adults who complete recreation and conservation projects on Pennsylvania’s public lands.

The Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps consists of three components:

  • Nine-month young adult crews consisting of a crew leader and five crew members (ages 18 to 25).

  • Nine-month cultural resources crew consisting of three members with a degree in anthropology, archaeology, history, architectural history, historic preservation, or a related field under the supervision of a project leader.

  • Six-week summer crews consisting of an adult leader and six youth members (ages 15 to 18).

Additional information about the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps program and how to apply is available at the DCNR website.

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