A group of North Carolina youth is working to improve, restore, and preserve the natural and recreational resources of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone and Blowing Rock this summer. The North Carolina Youth Conservation Corps (NCYCC) is in the field for seven weeks (June 20-August 8) through a partnership among the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC), and the National Park Service (NPS).
The crew is working on trail construction and maintenance, rebuilding historic fencing, invasive plant removal, and facility repairs for the NPS within the Sandy Flats sub-district located between Mileposts 260 and 305. The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and CTNC are funding the program. CTNC received a generous grant from the Kulynych Foundation and donations from individuals. The National Park Service is providing camping and staff support to the group.
“We are excited to create a new generation of Parkway stewards through this meaningful partnership,” said Carolyn Ward, CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. “These young people are providing critical support to the National Park Service in its efforts to improve and maintain the Parkway’s trails and other visitor resources.”
The NCYCC is a comprehensive youth development program that uses the natural world as a platform to teach job and leadership skills, environmental stewardship, and personal responsibility. Participants are 16 to 24 years of age and work in “crews” of eight members with two trained leaders. All crew members are from North Carolina. The crew works eight hours a day, five days a week. Each work day includes a one-hour education program focused on conservation and social topics. Crew members earn minimum wage. The crew camps the entire seven weeks. The Parkway crew is camping at the Julian Price Campground.
“After working with the NCYCC for five weeks, not only did I learn a great deal about the people in my crew, but I learned a lot about myself,” said NCYCC crew member Blake Barnette. “I also learned what an impact such a small group can make on the environment. It’s definitely something I’ll keep with me for the rest of my life.”
“Like the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, we are mobilizing young people to do important work for the National Park Service while providing the crew members with a paid job that teaches valuable work skills and personal responsibility,” said Reid Wilson, CTNC Executive Director.
The crew’s work projects were identified by the NPS as critical needs. Some of the projects are part of the NPS’s Centennial Initiative, an effort to improve visitor services and outreach to new audiences in celebration of the NPS’s 100 year anniversary in 2016. With help from NPS staff, the crew’s leaders teach the crew members skills needed for each project and manage the group’s work on the projects.
“The NCYCC is assisting the Parkway in important trail and resource protection work in highly used areas,” said Matt Henderson, District Facility Manager. “The youth’s work will also help enhance the visitor experience in the North Carolina high country for both locals and traveling public who enjoy Parkway trails, picnic areas and scenic views.”
Thus far, the crew has accomplished the following:
- Tearing out and construction of 300 feet of new fencing at the Julian Price Memorial Park picnic area,
- Trail maintenance on one mile of the Boone Fork Trail that includes 10 feet of new stepping stones,
- Trail maintenance on 2.4 miles of the Green Knob Trail that includes the construction of 23 water bars and 40 feet of stepping stones,
- Construction of 30 feet of check steps on the Rough Ridge Trail supported by 36 water bars and 15 feet of stone steps,
- Maintenance and drain cleaning on six miles of carriage trails at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park,
- Removal of 1,000 feet of worn out fencing and facility maintenance that includes filling 40 feet of ditch with rock crush at Cone Manor.
The NCYCC Parkway crew is one of four crews working across the state this summer. Another crew sponsored by the US Forest Service is doing trail maintenance on the Upper Thunderhole/China Creek Trail near Blowing Rock. The remaining two crews are rotating among various locations in the Piedmont and coastal plain working on projects for the US Army Corps of Engineers, NC State Parks, Wake County, Edgecombe County, Catawba Lands Conservancy, and the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association.
The NCYCC is a partnership between CTNC and the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC.) CTNC raises private funds to help support the NCYCC.
The Conservation Trust for North Carolina connects people to the outdoors, assists 23 local land trusts so that they can conserve more land, and protects natural and scenic lands along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Land trusts preserve land and waterways to safeguard our way of life. They work with landowners to ensure natural lands are protected for clean air, safe drinking water, fresh local foods, and recreational opportunities for all North Carolina families.
The Blue Ridge Parkway works with the National Park Service to identify projects critical to the care of the 469-mile scenic route. The nonprofit provides funding for projects that enhance and protect the natural, cultural, historic, and recreational qualities that make the Blue Ridge Parkway an American treasure.