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Alternate Spring Break with University of Illinois
and Fieldcrest Middle School
YOUTH AND CONSERVATION CORPS have long been a great resource for the trails community. Now, with the economic turmoil and the slide in employment, ideas about service corps are in the news. At the same time, there is an ongoing focus on the health of America’s young people. We decided it’s time to devote an issue of the American Trails Magazine to youth in the outdoors, and to help trail managers and advocates learn more.
First, there is a lot of money going into AmeriCorps and other programs to put people to work. The recovery dollars are also funding work on every category of federal lands, including parks, wildlife refuges, forests, and recreation areas. States also have funding, through their Recreational Trails and Off-Highway Vehicle programs. See "Shovels in the ground for recovery" for more details.
Second, these programs are not just for kids. Much of the workforce consists of young adults in their mid 20s with job experience and an interest in the natural world. They are all looking for careers as well as adventure. The youth and conservation corps programs are gateways to a better future, whether teaching about the importance of our natural resources, or nurturing careers in land management as well as outdoor recreation.
Another point to consider is how the corps can work with other crews and organizations. Adding the expertise of a trail contractor may be the right ingredient for a complex project. We should look beyond the routine to make the best use of the wide range of resources available to us. See “Hybrid Contracting” by Roger Bell, American Trails board member. For more details of corps in action, in cooperation with state trails programs, see the publication on page 34. I had a great time writing Conservation Corps and Transportation: Making the Connection for The Corps Network. I was simply amazed at the variety of projects these groups are working on across the country. We hope you’ll take a look at the range of potential projects in your area, and learn how youth and conservation corps can work with you.