The award was presented by Robert Stanton, senior advisor to Secretary Ken Salazar and a former director of the National Park Service, and Lisa Young, director of Take Pride America. “Virginia State Parks have received many accolades over the years, from awards honoring facilities and amenities to being recognized as the best managed state park system in the United States,” said DCR Director David Johnson. “This award recognizes the hard work and contributions of nearly 1,000 young people and staff who made this program so successful.”
Fashioned after the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, the YCC is a summer program for young volunteers between the ages of 14-17. Working in crews of approximately 10 volunteers and three college-age supervisors, the young people each contribute between 120 and 180 hours of service. Participants work in state parks across Virginia on a variety of conservation projects including trail and campground maintenance, construction, fence building, tree planting, noxious weed removal and fish habitat improvement. Program projects are designed to foster teamwork, self-esteem, social responsibility and respect for the environment, said Gaston Rouse, State Parks director of volunteer services.
“These youngsters are the future of the Commonwealth and the future of America,” Rouse said. “Volunteering is one of the most important facets of adult life, and we need to incorporate that into the lives of our children.”
In 2007, the YCC program received the Virginia Governor’s Best Youth Volunteer in Virginia award.
Since its creation in 2002, nearly 1,000 young people have participated in the YCC program. This year, YCC volunteers will work in 20 parks in two three-week sessions. Ten were completed earlier this summer, while the second session of YCC volunteers will work through Aug. 7 in nine state parks: Westmoreland, Holliday Lake, Leesylvania, York River, Belle Isle, Claytor Lake, Lake Anna, Sky Meadows and Wilderness Road state parks, as well as the Petersburg National Battlefield.
In 2009, 165 youths performed park development and maintenance projects, putting in 45,483 hours of work, valued at $933,765 in employee wages.
“The YCC program gives young people opportunities to serve their state and communities while learning important skills and it introduces natural resource and environmental fields as a possible career path,” said DCR State Parks Director Joe Elton. “The YCC embodies the core responsibility of the state parks system by fostering environmental awareness at a young age and connecting our volunteers to the awe and wonder of nature. YCC participants carry the memories of these experiences with them for the rest of their lives and they remain our partners in protecting state parks for future generations.”
This year, 246 are expected to participate in the program, logging an estimated 65,000 hours worth $1,360,450 in employee hours. The program attracted 447 applicants in 2010.
The YCC program was selected by a panel of judges from hundreds of qualified nominations representing outstanding examples of public lands stewardship from across the country. This year, there are 15 National Award winners, representing projects and events in 13 states and the District of Columbia.
Take Pride in America is a nationwide partnership program authorized by Congress to promote the appreciation and stewardship of our nation’s public lands. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior for the benefit of all public lands at all levels of government nationwide.