Tell us about your years of service. What kind of work did you do?
My Conservation Corps journey began in 2015 when I joined the bizarre and enigmatic Youth Outdoors 2 crew based out of Saint Paul (a certain Charley Brown Christmas Tree carefully positioned at our shop and adorned with pieces of garbage comes to mind). I spent the next two years with YO2, first as a crew member and later as a crew leader, working to manage and enhance floodplain forest habitat throughout the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. My crews also helped manage and restore native prairie throughout the city, maintaining natural buffers at Phalen and Como Regional Parks and helping Parks and Recreation staff implement their prescribed burn program.
I also co-led crews of six to eight high school youth in conservation initiatives throughout the city. The youth worked on many of the same projects as our adult crew in addition to a variety of civic engagement projects throughout the year: supporting urban farm and garden operations, leading Arbor Day volunteer events, and planning community education activities for the Citywide Spring Cleanup. The youth also completed a service project at the end of each term, which was always a highlight!
Were there any particularly memorable or challenging experiences?
The two years I spent with the Corps are chock-full of memorable experiences. If I had to choose, I’d say my favorite has to be the 2015 Arbor Day tree-planting event at Lilydale Regional Park. The event was the culmination of a long, intense floodplain forest enhancement project at Lilydale, which involved an almost immeasurable amount of cutting, pulling, hauling, stacking and piling. I couldn’t help but feel an enormous sense of pride and accomplishment as my crewmembers and I joined a great group of volunteers to plant hundreds of native trees and shrubs throughout the park. It was a lot of fun and I’ll never forget it!
What was/has been the most personally meaningful part of the experience? How did your experience shape your current career/life?
The Arbor Day planting, together with all the projects I worked on as a YO crew member and leader, have helped me realize the importance of maintaining and restoring natural areas within urban environments. I’ve seen firsthand that natural resources conservation and restoration improves the health of urban landscapes and the wellbeing of entire communities. Restoration work also helps to create an awareness of nature found close to home, shedding light on the fact that we’re perpetually surrounded by beautiful and inherently valuable natural systems, even in the middle of the city. I hope to continue this work throughout my professional and academic career.
What is your current position? What do you do?
I now work as a natural resources technician for Saint Paul Parks and Recreation, continuing many of the projects I started as a YO crew member and leader. In the fall I’ll be returning to the University of Minnesota to pursue a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture with a focus on ecological restoration.