After seven weeks of learning new skills and completing hard work (and dealing with a lot of rain), the third Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps summer program has wrapped up this month.
Sixteen crews across the state, each made up of about ten young people, ages 15-18 -- along with their crew leaders and support from DCNR staff, the Student Conservation Association (SCA), the Department of Labor and Industry (L&I), and the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation -- all made a world of a difference at state parks and forests and other public outdoor places this summer.
These hardworking teens helped with everything from trail maintenance and habitat restoration to building painting and bridge construction.
But it wasn’t all tough labor! As part of their PA Outdoor Corps experience, they also had some fun. The teens had the opportunity to explore new outdoor places, enjoy environmental education and recreation days, make lifelong friendships, and have access to conservation staff and job resources to help support them in their future.
Summer 2018 Highlights
DCNR hosted an end of the summer PA Outdoor Corps celebration where leaders and program coordinators from DCNR, SCA, and L&I shared the importance of the program, noting where it started and ways that it’s grown, and will continue to grow. The dozens of crew leaders also attended on August 13 to present about their accomplishments and the successes (and funny stories) about their teams.
DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn shared during this event that her favorite work days of the summer were visiting some of the crews, learning about their work, and working with them.
“This generation gives us hope in so many ways,” Dunn said. “You are leaders, and you don’t shy away from hard work.”
DCNR Deputy Secretary for Parks and Forestry John Norbeck shared with the crew leaders: “Whether you get a job in natural resources or not, we wanted to introduce folks to conservation, so you can carry conservation ethics with you for the rest of your lives.”
Many crew leaders discussed the pride they and their teams felt when working to better state parks and forests for improved visitor experiences and conservation. Many hope to go back to where they worked this summer to show their families and friends their efforts, and some already have!
Here is just a small sample of some of their outstanding work:
Altoona Crew -- Porcupine Cribs
The Altoona crew worked at Prince Gallitzin State Park during their first four weeks of the program. During this time, they helped fill porcupine cribs with invasive plants (Autumn Olive) and dropped them in the lake by boat to support fish habitat. The Fish and Boat Commission handed out awards for all their hard work.
Erie Crew -- Triosk and Nature Play Space Construction
During July, some of the Erie crew members worked to build an educational triosk at Erie Bluffs State Park. Others helped construct a Nature Play Space Area at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center.
Hazleton Crew -- Lehigh Tannery Historic Site Clean Up
Before the PA Outdoor Corps clearing and clean up
Thanks to the Hazleton crew, visitors to the Lehigh Tannery Historic Site near Hickory Run State Park now can enjoy the view of stone ruins of the Lehigh Tannery. The smaller enclosures on the north end of the foundation used to be tanning vats and the larger enclosures on the south end were part of a long drying or storage building.
After the PA Outdoor Corps clearing and clean up
Pittsburgh Crew – Adirondack Shelter Restoration
The Pittsburgh crew spent the first four weeks of their experience at Raccoon Creek State Park building a foot bridge, doing trail work, and restoring Adirondack shelters.
St. Marys Crew -- New Trail Construction
The St. Marys crew built a new trail from the campground to the dam by moving heavy rocks and materials as a team.
Looking to the Future
Some of the summer youth crews felt so strongly about conservation that after their August 10 program end date, they decided to continue to volunteer to help address issues caused by flooding at state parks.
Sparking this passion for outdoor service is what the PA Outdoor Corps is designed to do. DCNR and its partners hope to continue to build upon the program, to connect even more youth and young adults with the outdoors.
In addition to this work, the 10-month, young adult PA Outdoor Corps crews (ages 18-25) have been working since February 2018 and will continue to do great work through early November 2018.
To learn more about the PA Outdoor Corps program, visit DCNR’s PA Outdoor Corps web page. You can also hear more about crew member experiences from recent years from this video.
DCNR also posts updates on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and our resource e-newsletter about current projects, program events, and PA Outdoor Corps hiring announcements.
Young people interested in conservation can also check out our new Youth Ambassador Program.