Erik Wrede’s strong connection with the Corps goes back 25 years and continues in his work today as coordinator of the DNR State Water Trails system. Professionally, he worked as a Minnesota Conservation Corps staff member from 1999-2005, first as the central district manager of the Young Adult Program in the DNR, then as executive director after the Corps emerged from the threat of complete elimination and transitioned to a nonprofit in 2003. Wrede’s current job is a mixed bag of outreach, mapping, policy, training and working with external partners on conservation and recreation projects, including the Corps. He hires crews for project work, hosts an individual placement and serves as a guest speaker at trainings. He is also the Corps liaison for the DNR Parks and Trails Division (our most frequent project host). “It gives me great pride to see the idealism and anticipation in the eyes of corps members who are about to embark upon what will very likely become a life-changing experience,” he said.
Prior to working with the Corps, Wrede spent time with Corps summer youth crews at St. Croix State Park in the early 1990s. While working at the American Red Cross, he brought high school volunteers to teach HIV/AIDS courses to corps members, facilitated group initiative teambuilding courses and even flipped a pancake or two. In the mid-90s, he ran the YMCA Camp Ihduhapi Adventure Learning Center and regularly hosted CCM crews for trainings and teambuilding events. While working for the DNR in his current role, he helped to establish the Corps’ Individual Placements program.
Wrede is optimistic about future prospects of young people who serve in the Corps and are interested in natural resources careers, especially with a large number of DNR staff heading into retirement. He sees great opportunities for corps members to not only gain skills and experience in the field but also to bring 21st century technology and communications savvy to the field. “Many of the hiring managers in the DNR grew up in a time before the internet and cell phones,” he said. “The current generation of corps members literally changes how the DNR researches, plans, performs and communicates. That is exciting!”