By Brett Stolpestad
It’s hard to believe that we are now down to the final month of the 2015 Conservation Corps service term. There are so many memories that I would like to write about for this last post. I could easily write a memoir but in order to keep this reasonably short, I have decided to share this year’s highlights through pictures. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. Or something like that.
The first month of the term was filled with all kinds of training. We learned basic first aid and CPR, traveled up north for fire training and spent a few days out in the cold for chainsaw training. It was fun learning a variety of new technical skills, but spending some quality time with the other YO corps members was the real highlight. I’ll always remember fire training in Askov when we were all together cooking, buying groceries, playing “Catan,” listening to music, watching Big Hero 6 and working on puzzles. We were all one big family!
The first week of YO was incredibly exciting. I was happy to finally begin the youth term and meet our first crew. Over the next ten weeks, our crew had the chance to work on a variety of cool projects throughout Saint Paul, helping maintain a Cottonwood research project and lead a planting event at Lilydale Regional Park, organizing a volunteer station for the Citywide Cleanup and constructing squirrel houses for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. It was truly a lot of fun getting to know the youth and learning more about their interests, goals and personalities. I was lucky to have such a great spring crew and I’m thankful for the memories (and for the laughs.).
Two things sum up our summer EcoRangers projects: rain gardens and weeding. Our EcoRangers crews spent a lot of time this summer keeping the bad stuff out of Saint Paul’s rain gardens. It was both time-intensive and labor-intensive, but it was also extremely satisfying. Rain gardens can be a small, beautiful oasis in the middle of a concrete desert -- as long as they aren’t populated by a host of nasty invasive -- so it was gratifying to see them improve throughout the summer as a result of our hard work. It’s also safe to say that I wouldn’t have gotten to know our youth crew members as well as I had without the weeding, as weird as that sounds. We all had a lot of time to talk and learn more about each other as we pulled garlic mustard or clipped Canada thistle. I’m proud of the work our EcoRangers accomplished over the summer and happy to have met such a great group of kids.
I can hardly believe that the fall YO term is almost over when it feels like it has just begun. It’s sad to think that we will be saying goodbye to yet another group of youth in less than two weeks but I’m glad to have had the chance to work with them on our projects this fall, getting down in the muck at Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, manning the eagle booth for National Public Lands day at Hidden Falls and hauling acres of brush at Lilydale Regional Park. I can’t wait for the service project this Saturday!
With the Crew
Youth Outdoors has been an incredible experience. It has been a privilege to work with each one of our youth throughout the year. And don’t think for a minute that I have forgotten about my amazing crew! Pete, Jessie and Kelsey; you have all been awesome people to work with and I am so happy to have had the chance to get to know you this year. You guys are pretty cool. Yes, I know I am being sappy but this is my last post so I have to say it. There are too many memories to recount from our year as an adult crew so I’ll just pick a few of my favorite photos to share. I hope you approve, Jessie.