What do the CCC, YCC, SCA and Junior Ranger programs have in common? They all provide great opportunities for young people to gain hands-on experience in national parks. In the process, some of them will develop a life-long appreciation of parks—and the values that make them special.
To help make those experiences possible, the non-profit Yosemite Fund has launched an ambitious project with an admirable goal: raising $1 million for "youth programs to cultivate future park stewards through hands-on experience in Yosemite National Park." The participants aren't the only ones who will benefit—projects funded by the effort will benefit park visitors and resources.
For many people, the acronym "CCC" conjure up images of the Civilian Conservation Corps from the post-Depression era, but it has a contemporary context as well: The California Conservation Corps, a current program for young adults in their late teens and early 20s.
The modern CCC is just one of the programs that will benefit for the Yosemite Fund's "Youth in Yosemite" project. The money will allow the current group of CCC participants to repair several front country trails and more than 60 miles of backcountry trails.
Donations received for the project will also fund a variety of other programs during 2010 for children and young adults. According to a spokesperson for the Fund,
Forty members of the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), a program for 15-to 18-year-olds, will spend eight weeks living in the park restoring 35 miles of trail, replacing 350 fire rings, and taking action to reduce the potential for fires in meadows.
A Student Conservation Association (SCA) program will have college interns removing inappropriate trails and non-native plants, as well as scanning 18,000 images from Yosemite’s archives, preserving them for future generations.
Junior Ranger educational programs for children ages seven through thirteen and exhibits at Happy Isles Nature Center will expand, helping excite more children with a taste of Yosemite’s unique natural features.
“These programs build knowledge, leadership skills and a love for the outdoors,” said Mike Tollefson, president of the nonprofit Yosemite Fund. “In many cases, youth work side by side with National Park Service employees doing projects that preserve, protect and improve the park. Amid Yosemite’s grandeur, young lives are changed.”
Erin Anders is an example of participant who found a new direction in life through youth conservation programs. He grew up in a tough part of Los Angeles working odd jobs before he saw a CCC poster and applied for the program.
“My CCC experience refocused my life,” said Anders, who today manages National Park Service and YCC trail crews in Yosemite. “I wanted to work outdoors and to do something that showed tangible results that benefitted the land and people. The CCC’s gave me that opportunity.”
Like Anders, many who started in the CCC have gone on to careers in the National Park Service. The same is true of youth enrolled in the YCC. “YCC participants have found career paths as biologists, trail interpreters, firefighters, and park utilities and communications specialists. It has worked out fantastically,” said Jose Lopez, YCC Program Manager. Today, more than a dozen YCC alumni work in Yosemite.
Intern Adam Fix, a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo, has been working with the SCA on preserving its historic resources. “Although my life is short and insignificant compared to Half Dome or the Sequoia, I can use that time to help ensure places like this are preserved,” he said.
The Junior Ranger program helps children and young people forge deep connections with Yosemite National Park. Donor funding will keep the Happy Isles Junior Ranger Center open nine months a year, seven days a week in 2010, and update museum exhibits. Last year, more than 27,000 children went through the Junior Ranger Program in Yosemite.
“We’re providing programs to help show young people the magic of our national parks,” said Victoria Mates, who manages interpretive programs for the National Park Service in Yosemite. “It’s a connection we hope they will carry with them the rest of their lives.”
The Yosemite Fund is an example of the growing importance of non-profit partners in NPS operations.
Since 1988, The Yosemite Fund has granted over $55 million for more than 300 projects in Yosemite as the primary fundraising organization for the park. Its notable projects include the rehabilitation to the approach to Yosemite Falls, repair of 100 miles of hiking trails, protection of Peregrine Falcons, restoration of meadows, and improvements to the Happy Isles Nature Center.
The Yosemite Fund and another long-standing partner, the Yosemite Association, merged in January "to generate even more support to preserve, protect and enhance the park. The Association, established in 1923, is an educational, nonprofit organization that supports Yosemite through volunteerism, outdoor learning, publishing, arts, wilderness and Junior Ranger programs."
If you'd like learn more about the Youth in Yosemite programs, including how to make a contribution, you'll find more information at the Yosemite Fund website, or you can call 800-4-MY-PARK.