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Another Successful Pa. Outdoor Corps Season

December 11, 2019 12:00 AM

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​After a year of learning new skills and completing hard work, the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps program has wrapped up its fourth season.

Young Pennsylvanians have the opportunity to enjoy fulfilling, outdoor experiences through the youth-focused initiative.

The program engages teams of youth and young adults in hands-on, paid employment improving local green spaces and recreational areas.

Members of the Williamsport young adult crew install the new park entrance sign.

By completing projects that protect natural places and increase access to nature for others, crew members make tangible and lasting contributions to their communities.

“Seeing the finished product of our hard work is really satisfying,” said Eugene Sosa, 2019 Hazleton youth crew

Since 2016, through a partnership of DCNR, the Student Conservation Association, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, and more recently, the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation, the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps has offered more than 700 young people the opportunity to serve on a team completing conservation projects.

A Look at the 2019 Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps Crews

At Canoe Creek State Park, members of the Altoona young adult crew plant trees.

The Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps crews have repeatedly made a huge impact on maintenance and conservation needs in Pennsylvania’s parks and forests. This year alone, crew members completed:

  • 588 structure repairs
  • 939 acres of habitat improvement
  • 10 miles of waterway and shoreline improvement
  • 192 miles of trails created or repaired
  • 3,197 trees planted
  • 5,264 data points collected during community tree inventories and lake sediment depth studies

Over 200 individuals ages 15 to 25 years old completed a wide range of projects in 62 state parks, 12 state forests, and other lands.

For six weeks, 160 youth members worked and learned in 17 crews, comprised of five to ten high school students, and one to two adult crew leaders. Young people were recruited from 17 program cities and surrounding communities:

  • Allentown
  • Altoona
  • Chambersburg
  • Erie
  • Greensburg
  • Harrisburg
  • Hazleton
  • Meadville
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Pottstown
  • Renovo
  • Saint Marys
  • Wellsboro
  • Wilkes-Barre
  • Williamsport
  • York

The 46 participants in the 10-month Young Adult program formed nine crews from eight cities and surrounding communities:

  • Altoona
  • Harrisburg
  • Meadville
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Saint Marys
  • Wilkes-Barre
  • Williamsport

Of the two crews run out of Harrisburg, one focused on completing projects in the greater Harrisburg region, and the other undertook conservation projects across the state.

This new roving crew was added to the program this year to assist resource management projects in many regions of the commonwealth.

2019 Project Highlights

Twenty-six crews across the state -- along with their crew leaders and support from DCNR staff -- made a world of a difference at state parks and forests and other public outdoor places this season.

These hardworking young people helped with everything from trail maintenance and habitat restoration to building, painting and bridge construction.

The Wilkes-Barre Youth Crew worked to replace stairs leading to the boulder field at Hickory Run State Park.

This project required the removal of dilapidated wooden steps, replacing them with new ones made of dimensional lumber. The stairs posed a serious safety hazard for park visitors accessing the Boulder Field.

Wilkes-Barre youth crew members replace stairs at Hickory Run State Park.

Members of the Meadville Young Adult Crew worked to reopen trails and bridges within Clear Creek State Park.

Later in the season, the Meadville and Saint Marys crews teamed up to finish installing handrails on two “new” bridges in the park. The bridges were previously closed because of safety concerns, cutting visitors off from miles of hiking trail. Thanks to dedicated park staff and the corps, the bridges will reopen to the public in 2020.

Members of the Meadville young adult crew work to complete a bridge to reopen hiking trails in Clear Creek State Park.

The Harrisburg young-adult roving crew accomplished an incredible amount of work in parks and forests across Pennsylvania this year. Members worked on eight-day deployments at locations throughout the state.

Focusing on resource management, they worked on projects such as invasive species removal and treatment. DCNR employees are instrumental in imparting their knowledge on crew members as they learn new skills and grow personally and professionally. 

Harrisburg roving crew member treats invasive tree of heaven.

A Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps season wouldn’t be complete without some fun and educational adventures.

As part of their experience, members have 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.

Members of the Harrisburg young adult crew learn to properly use a kayak.

The Future of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps

"Through the hot and humid days, I always came home with a story to tell and the satisfaction that I was part of something big that visitors over many years could enjoy." - Emma Howell, 2019 York summer youth crew

The Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps program has been successful in engaging diverse, young Pennsylvanians in conservation work -- and it is gaining steam.

The program is now hiring for its 10-month crews (PDF) starting in March 2020 to work on conservation projects on Pennsylvania’s public lands, as well as crew leaders (PDF) to manage the crews. Applications are due Wednesday, January 1, 2020.

Applications for the  2020 six-week, summer youth program will be accepted Saturday, February 1 – Wednesday, April 1, 2020.

Those interested in being a 2020 youth crew leader should apply no later than Wednesday, April 15, 2020.

For more information and updates about the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps, you also can follow DCNR on Facebook and Twitter.

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