We are nearing the end of the North Carolina Youth Conservation Corps (NCYCC) 2018 summer season and all is well on the trails and in the parks. In just a few short weeks, our corps members have accomplished so much.

We have 36 amazing young people contributing thousands of hours of work to improve, restore, and preserve North Carolina’s parks and trails. At the same time, they are receiving a rich education in job and life skills, environmental stewardship, leadership, community service and personal responsibility.

This summer has been a truly life-changing experience.

N.C. Crew 1 – State Parks AmeriCorps Chainsaw Crew

Hazard trees are dead or dying trees at risk of injuring people because of their proximity to public trails and park facilities. Hazard tree removal is a priority maintenance need of the NC State Park system because of severe storms in recent years.

This year launched a new partnership between CTNC and the N.C. Division of Parks to employ a chainsaw-certified crew to address hazardous tree removal within state parks. NC Crew 1 spent their first week doing trail work in heat indexes well over 100°, filling in “the biggest hole known to human existence” caused by flooding at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park. They followed up by completing a North Carolina State Park chainsaw certification course at Morrow Mountain State Park. The crew returned to Cliffs of the Neuse State Park to use their new chainsaw skills to remove hazard trees along the park’s hiking trails. The crew also spent weeks supporting parks staff at Jones Lake State Park and Lake Waccamaw State Park.

In addition to getting paid hourly, the crew members will receive an AmeriCorps education award at the end of their service. This education award can be used to pay higher education or training institution expenses or to repay qualified student loans. The members will also gain valuable job qualifications with the chainsaw certification they obtained. One member has plans to apply for a wildland fire fighting position after he completes his NCYCC season.

Not only has the crew visited some of our states most celebrated state parks, but they also used their free-time to eat some local barbeque, visit the North Carolina Aquarium and attend the Eno River Festival.

The Goldsboro Daily News had this to say about N.C. Crew 1.

This partnership was made possible thanks to legislation introduced by Representative Jimmy Dixon, with the support of Representative Chuck McGrady and Senator Harry Brown, during the 2017 legislative session.

N.C. Crew 2 – United States Forest Service Trail Crew

N.C. Crew 2 built a set of box steps on badly eroded trail section of the Upper Creek Falls Trail in the Pisgah National Forest. The Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests are the most visited national forests in the United States.

This NCYCC youth crew (15-18-years-old) spent the first two weeks of the summer restoring the Upper Creek Falls Trail in the Grandfather District of the Pisgah National Forest. They later moved to the Pisgah District of the Pisgah National Forest near Brevard where they are restoring a number of trails around the Pisgah Visitor Center.

The crew is seeing how high traffic and water flow erode trails. They are learning how to build re-routes, trail structures and strategically place large rocks to restore and preserve the trails. The USFS rangers are giving them a big “thumbs up” for the quantity and quality of their work. Because the members work on some of the Pisgah District’s most highly used trails, they have received plenty of thanks from hikers.

The crew has used their weekends to visit Chimney Rock State Park, Sliding Rock and the town of Brevard.

Two members of the crew are returning from last year and one of those has decided to pursue a degree in sustainable development at Appalachian State University this fall. Another crew member is using his NCYCC experience to fulfill his high school program’s internship requirement.

N.C. Crews 3.1 and 3.2 – Land Trust and Local Government Crews

N.C. Crews 3.1 and 3.2 are this year’s two three-week teen crews. Both crews’ work includes two weeks of long-leaf pine restoration, trail building and maintenance, and park and campground improvements for the Coastal Land Trust. Crew 3.1 also worked on removing invasive species and trail maintenance for Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation in Charlotte. Crew 3.2 will do an additional week of work building a boardwalk and removing invasive species for Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association in Durham.

Charlotte’s Spectrum News interviewed N.C. Crew 3.1. Take a look here!

What’s Next…

The crews will end their NCYCC program on August 4 with a professional development event in Raleigh. Duke Energy Foundation funds a full day of workshops to help NCYCC participants prepare for the next step of their education and career journey. The day includes sessions on financial literacy, skills matching, and goal setting, interviewing, project management and gap year opportunities. It also includes a natural resources career panel of representatives from local, state, and federal agencies, a nonprofit, and a for-profit company to give participants information about natural resource jobs in each of these sectors.

The NCYCC program is supported by Conservation Trust for North Carolina, Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, N.C. State Parks, U.S. Forest Service, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department, Duke Energy Foundation, N.C. Electric Membership Cooperative, Wells Fargo, Coastal Land Trust, Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, Fred and Alice Stanback, the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Foundation, Little Acorn Fund, the Smith Family Foundation, and the generosity of individual donors.

It is because of this generous support that these young people have an opportunity to learn about the natural world, grow in their understanding of the value of public lands, connect with nature on a daily basis, gain work skills and certifications, and discover new things about themselves and other people.

You are helping CTNC cultivate a new generation of conservation leaders for North Carolina.