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Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership - 2013-09-05

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North Carolina's First Statewide Youth Conservation Corps Completed Conservation Projects on Public Lands

Guest post by Jan Pender, Conservation Trust for North Carolina, September 5, 2013

 

The North Carolina Youth Conservation Corps (NCYCC) has completed several high priority conservation and community service projects this summer that will enhance North Carolina's public lands and create more recreation opportunities for visitors. The NCYCC deployed two crews of North Carolina youth between the ages of 16 and 24, with two highly trained crew leaders for each group. Starting June 22, the crews camped out and worked on projects for seven weeks.

The NCYCC, a partnership between the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC) and the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC), is a comprehensive youth development program that uses the natural world as a platform for teaching environmental stewardship, job and leadership skills, community service and personal responsibility.

One NCYCC crew built a 7-mile mountain bike trail for the U.S. Forest Service in the Croatan National Forest. The work included clearing a corridor of thick vegetation, constructing a foundation, and using an excavator to create a flat, smooth surface for the completed bike trail.

The second crew completed a variety of projects in the Triangle region for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the Falls Lake Dam Visitor Assistance Center, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and Eno River State Park. The Falls Lake Dam projects included construction of a new amphitheatre and trail connecting to the visitor parking lot, construction of a new RV gravel parking pad for volunteer workers at the Falls Lake Dam, removal of invasive species from the surrounding hardwood forest, and trail maintenance on the interpretive trail. The crew also completed construction and maintenance on 60 miles of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in and around Falls Lake State Recreation Area and in the Eno River State Park. Several days were spent removing invasive species from the Eno River.

Both crews made valuable contributions to North Carolina public lands. "The NCYCC managed to get significant parts of a couple of major projects done for the Eno River State Park that simply never would have gotten done by park staff alone," said Keith Nealson, park superintendent. "They contributed hundreds of hours of work helping to map and pull alligator weed, an invasive aquatic species in the Eno River, and made significant improvements to the park's outlying trails. They have done this work under less than ideal conditions and with minimal supervision. We are grateful to everyone involved for making this project happen."

These NCYCC crews showed remarkable stamina in their ability to work through extreme weather conditions and difficult physical challenges. Both crews worked through heat, humidity, and rain – LOTS of rain. Croatan crew members endured poison ivy and angry yellow jackets that resulted in swollen ears and eyes. Despite the hard work, crew members reported having a positive experience.

"The NCYCC has definitely been a very positive experience," said Elijah Canup of the NCYCC Croatan Crew. "I want to now pursue a career that will allow me to work outdoors."

Thomas Best of the Triangle Crew said the toughest part of his experience was living without his cell phone. "I'm used to texting my friends before going to bed at night. This experience has taught me to talk with nature and my fellow crew members instead."

The NCYCC crews were sponsored by the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Woodson Family Foundation, the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, Great Outdoor Provision Company, Pepsi Bottling Ventures, Kulynych Family Foundation, Little Acorn Fund, Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation, Columbia Sportswear, Merrell, Outdoor Nation, and numerous individual supporters.

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