Even with the challenging setbacks 2020 has thrown at the world so far, the Pacific Northwest environment continues to be the source of building good memories, pursuing personal growth, and finding inspiration.
Community, education, and empowerment is what our partner, Northwest Youth Corps (NYC), is all about.
Founded in 1984, Northwest Youth Corps partners with land management agencies, municipalities, and nonprofit organizations throughout the northwest, to help youth ages 15-24 earn money as they reduce the threat of wildfire and invasive weeds, and maintain and build trails for public use. Even with the challenges this summer presented, NYC continued their programming by implementing safety protocols to keep their crews safe while working on the land.
For the second year in a row NYC teamed up with Capitol Land Trust to work towards the same goals: empower youth to protect critical habitat and clean water and improve recreational opportunities for communities. We were excited to partner again!
“Capitol Land Trust is a vital partner to NYC in prioritizing place-based learning with our projects and a stellar example of a non-federal agency that is a steward of the land.”
Edison Velez III, State Manager, Washington Northwest Youth Corps
During the first year our organizations worked together, we met a crew that was co-led by Andie, a young adult originally from Alaska. Andie was serving their first AmeriCorps term as an AmeriCorps Field Leader for NYC’s Washington Youth Corps Camping Program. With a year of experience under their belt, Andie returned to the program in 2020 to again tackle the challenging position of AmeriCorps Field Leader.
The life of a field leader is tough work with many responsibilities. Caring for the well-being of a teen crew, meeting project sponsor needs, paperwork, chores, and self-care to name a few. Even though it’s a challenging gig, Andie loves the opportunity to travel, meet new people, and solve problems.
“One of my favorite aspects about this job is the problem solving because it keeps my brain engaged and I’m good at figuring things out. I like being challenged.” Andie, AmeriCorps Field Leader
Under Andie’s leadership, the crew set out to improve the visitor experience and further protect critical habitat at three CLT public-access preserves: Randall Preserve, Bayshore Preserve, and Hilburn Preserve. All three preserves represent the intersection of people and conservation and welcome visitors with signage, trails, and free parking.
Randall Preserve conserves a portion of Eld Inlet marine shoreline and freshwater wetland habitat. Over the past several decades, partners and volunteers have helped restore the seven acres to a more natural state. CLT opened a short walking loop trail here in 2018. NYC’s crew installed split-rail fencing in several locations nearest the shoreline to let visitors know what areas to avoid, protecting sensitive habitat. Check out the viewing area!
Bayshore Preserve is conserved by CLT for its important estuary, freshwater shoreline, and saltwater shoreline habitat. Frequented by wildlife and the community alike, the property represents a good example of how conservation and recreation can coexist.
Thanks to the youth crew, the kiosk at Bayshore Preserve now sports a brand-new welcome sign, complete with a trail map, user guidelines, and background information about the preserve.
Bayshore’s Johns Creek Trail also got a mighty-nice “traillift”! The trail runs parallel to Johns Creek, which is important fall chum spawning and rearing habitat. By widening the trail, visitors can now walk side by side amongst lush re-growing riparian vegetation without damaging it. This will be particularly helpful once we are able to start hosting school field trips again.
Bayshore Preserve was Andie’s favorite CLT preserve.
“I loved Bayshore! I felt proud to work in such a cool area where there is such mixed use like school field trips, dog walking, and hanging out. The stories we learned about that place during our time there were amazing. It reminded me of my local parks in Oregon.” Andie, AmeriCorps Field Leader
Andie further reflected on the importance of local parks, especially during a public health crisis.
“Humans need nature and parks are a good way to meet that need, especially during COVID. When I moved from Alaska to Portland, I realized how far some people have to travel to be in nature. Since some people don’t have the resources to travel to remote natural areas, having access to a local preserve like Bayshore is magical.” Andie, AmeriCorps Field Leader
To top off the crew’s experience and gain high school credit, crew members participate in accredited curriculum called “Something Educational Every Day.” To support this, CLT coordinated with local environmental educators to provide socially distanced learning opportunities for them. Through lessons about native plant identification, water quality, and reflection, they built an even stronger connection with each other AND the outdoors.
CLT’s mission of furthering collaborative and strategic conservation of southwest Washington’s essential natural areas and working lands recognizes the intersection of people and conservation. When the ecological value of the land is not only protected, but utilized as a teaching, restoring, and learning tool, the future of conservation is surely bright.
A huge thank you to the crew members for their hard work this summer and for their curiosity of the natural world. A special thank you to our partners that worked together to provide this opportunity: