Summer youth work crew a success in Allegheny National Forest
Unique Partnership Provides Educational Employment Opportunity for Local Youth
This summer the USDA Forest Service – Allegheny National Forest hosted two crews of high-school-aged youth to complete six weeks of work in the ANF with hands-on stewardship of the land.
One crew was recruited from within Elk County across the Marienville Ranger District and the Ridgway area, and the Bradford Ranger District hosted a crew of high-school-aged youth recruited from Warren and McKean Counties.
The Marienville and Bradford Ranger District based Summer Youth Crews 2022:
Back row Back row left to right: Noah Archer, TJ McAulay, Levi Wilson, Ryan Galbreath (Crew Leader), Devin Colosimo, Kaiden Danekas, Aidan Babb, and Brody Stauffer.
Front row (left to right): Marcella Smith (crew leader), Maria Catalano, Sheena Wendell (crew leader), and Mckenzie Danekas.
These crews were made possible by a unique partnership of federal, state, and local government, as well as a key non-profit organization. The crew was sponsored and directed as a Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew by the Allegheny National Forest, hosted by Ridgway Township, administered by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) through their PA Outdoor Youth Corps program, and recruited and supervised by the non-profit Student Conservation Association (SCA) with educational programming conducted by the Elk County Conservation District (ECCD).
The Marienville Ranger Distract crew worked for six weeks in the Allegheny National Forest and Ridgway Township. They included high school students Maria Catalano, Kaiden Danekas, Brody Stauffer, Aidan Babb, and Mckenzie Danekas, and Crew Leaders Sheena Wendell and Marcella Smith.
The Bradford Ranger District crew consisted of high school students Devin Colosimo, Noah Archer, Timothy (TJ) McAulay, Levi Wilson, and Evan Swanson, along with their Crew Leader Ryan Galbreath.
On the importance of this program, Bradford crew member Devin Colosimo put it best, “Without nature, what do we really have?”
Working together, the crews completed natural resource and recreation projects while learning about the diverse career opportunities in natural resources and conservation.
- The Marienville and Bradford Ranger District crews helped construct a turnpike section on Hector Falls Trail.
- They weeded and mulched pollinator gardens.
- They cleaned up campsites along the Clarion Wild and Scenic River.
- They planted over 400 red and white pine trees at Beaver Meadows Recreation Area.
- They planted tulip poplar, white oak, sugar maple, red maple, and gray stem dogwood at Twin Lakes Recreation Area. They also stained wooden structures in the campground.
- They brushed the Laurel Mill Trail System and began the Hemlock Loop Trail realignment.
- They helped install a new trail along the Kinzua Connector near the Allegheny Reservoir.
- In their last week, they completed numerous projects around Ridgway, including stream bank improvements, campsite improvements, and dock staining.
- They assisted the wildlife team by planting trees, placing a transmitter on a wood turtle, and repairing and installing kestrel and wood duck boxes.
- They helped the timber crew designate wildlife trees in a timber unit and cruise trees for a timber sale. The crew also visited active timber sale sites and visited road reconstruction sites to learn more about the scope of a timber harvesting operation
- They worked with the Silviculture team to conduct overstory and understory inventory and assisted in tree planting. They toured silvicultural age class and treatment areas and visited prescribed fire areas to see the progression of new growth.
- They worked on pollinator gardens across the district by weeding, mulching, watering, and planting native pollinator-friendly species.
- They worked with the archaeology team to view a proposed work site and learn how the archaeologists survey an area. They also visited a few cultural sites around the district to understand the history and importance of these areas.
Bradford crew member Levi Wilson summed up his experience by stating, “Work can still be fun by working with the forest.”
“The Student Conservation Association was the right partner for this initiative, and they did a wonderful job leading the crew. This program would not have been as successful without Elk County Conservation District’s Victoria Challingsworth managing the crew’s environmental education days. Together, we created an outstanding program for the students and fostered lifelong ethics in environmental conservation and community involvement”, said Bradford District Ranger Richard Hatfield.
Elk County Conservation District (ECCD) provided educational programming for the youth crew. The model for the YCC program is to provide one day of educational activities each week of the program. Victoria Challingsworth of ECCD worked with Allegheny National Forest to develop a comprehensive educational program for the crew. Each week, they provided a focused educational curriculum that covered topics such as stormwater and flood control, aquatic organism passages, municipal water treatment, waste management and recycling, invasive species, and forest management practices.
Founded in 1957, the Student Conservation Association (SCA) has supported its mission as a non-profit organization to build the next generation of conservation leaders. By engaging young people in hands-on service to the land, the SCA hopes to instill lifelong stewardship of the environment and their local communities.
“This was a terrific partnership focused on providing a meaningful outdoor experience for youth in Elk County through paid employment and educational activities. I am grateful to all of the partners who contributed to the success of this program. And I am amazed at what this small group of dedicated youth was able to accomplish in just a few short weeks. They truly made a difference that will have a lasting impact on the natural resources of the ANF and the public using those natural resources on both the ANF and in Ridgway Township. We thank these young people for their service, and I hope this experience provides a spark that encourages them to engage in their communities and to steward their public lands in the future” said Marienville District Ranger Rob Fallon.
Established as a federal youth program in the 1970s, the United States Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) is a summer youth employment program that engages young people in meaningful work experiences in national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and fish hatcheries while developing an ethic of environmental stewardship and civic responsibility.
The PA DCNR Outdoor Youth Corps offers work experience, job training, and environmental education opportunities to young people who complete recreation and conservation projects on Pennsylvania’s public lands.
For the past 65 years, the Student Conservation Association (SCA) has been following through on its mission as a non-profit to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of the environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land.
In addition to the partners mentioned above, others joined together to offer this employment opportunity for local youth:
- Ridgway Township hosted the crew at the Township offices on Route 948. They provided a base for the crew to assemble, store their tools, and adjust their plans when the weather intervened. This also provided an opportunity for the crew to interact with Township personnel when they worked exclusively on projects within the Township and Borough during their last week on the job.
- Elk County Conservation District (ECCD) provided educational programming for the youth crew. The model for the YCC and PA Outdoor Corps programs is to provide one day of educational program each week of the program. The ECCD worked with the Allegheny National Forest to develop a comprehensive educational program for the six-week crew, and on Wednesday of each week provided staff and a focused educational curriculum in such areas as aquatics, forestry, recreation, wildlife, and green energy.
- Allegheny Hike, Bike and Ski Club (AHBS) assisted with planning and executing work on the Laurel Mill trail system. The crew was only able to work on brushing out a new trail location because the equipment needed to establish the new trail tread was not available as planned. But AHBS continued to move forward with the Forest Service on this project after the youth crew had finished their work.
About the USDA Forest Service – Allegheny National Forest:
Established in 1923, the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) is Pennsylvania’s only National Forest. Situated on the Allegheny Plateau, the forest is comprised of 514,029 acres in the northwestern corner of the state. The slogan “Land of Many Uses” captures a vision of a healthy, vigorous, working forest that provides timber and wood products, watershed protection, access to underground minerals, ties to cultural history, a diversity of wildlife habitats, and outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities — not only today but in a sustainable way so future generations can enjoy these benefits.
More From Our Blog