Youth bond over service

Published 2:56 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Twin Lakes State Park recently completed its third week of fostering youth conservation and service.

The park welcomed 13 young women from around the state to participate in Virginia State Park’s annual Youth Conservation Corps (YCC).

”(YCC comes) here for three weeks and they help us out with little projects around the park,” Chief Ranger Mark Cossa said. “We come up with the projects for them to do and then make sure they have the materials and all the stuff to do that.”

The residential program gives participants the chance to serve, learn and live in a Virginia State park for three weeks during the summer. Various parks throughout the state participate in the program.

The groups are separated by gender and consist of crew members, ages 14-18, and crew supervisors, age 18 and older.

According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) website, “the mission of DCR’s Virginia State Parks YCC is to engage young people in a structured program of important conservation and park projects on public lands while providing learning that fosters teamwork, self-esteem, social responsibility and respect for the environment.”

Members of the Virginia State Park Youth Conservation Corps pose at Twin Lakes State Park during their third week of volunteering. Pictured are, from left, front row, Lyddia Stanley, Daisy Jess Ball, Ivy Solomon, Ashley Miller, Monica Ford, back row, Laura Hickey, Ashley Johnson, Camila Vargas, Bobbi Jones, Maddie Talnagi, Bailey Teague and Alexa Weeks. (Photo by Carson Reeher)

Members of the Virginia State Park Youth Conservation Corps pose at Twin Lakes State Park during their third week
of volunteering. Pictured are, from left, front row, Lyddia Stanley, Daisy Jess Ball, Ivy Solomon, Ashley Miller, Monica
Ford, back row, Laura Hickey, Ashley Johnson, Camila Vargas, Bobbi Jones, Maddie Talnagi, Bailey Teague and
Alexa Weeks. (Photo by Carson Reeher)

At Twin Lakes, the YCC participants went through the parks’ seven miles of trails and performed trail maintenance, said Cossa.

“Basically, they cut back the corridor,” he said. “The corridor is supposed to be about 10 feet wide, so they cut back any trees that had overgrown.”

The group also smoothed the trail out from tire treads that had collected water and helped to create picnic pads to lessen erosion on the shore of the lakes.

“We want to try to keep as much sediment out of the water as we can, and it makes a little more of a level spot for people to picnic,” said Cossa. “It’s a lot of manpower to get done.”

“It’s been really incredible to be working here. We’ve done the picnic pads and we’ve done ditches to help with rain flow throughout the park so erosion is limited and we’ve done a bunch of trail maintenance,” said 17-year-old Maddie Talnagi, a crew member.

Park Manager Phil Morgan said the program is “a good resource for (Virginia State Parks). A lot of (YCC participants) will get a seed planted that working for the parks is an honorable job.”

Said Cossa: “I think (YCC is) extremely important … A lot of them enjoy doing this type of work so they come out and they learn experience.”

Cossa said, “At the end (of the three weeks) they have their little graduation where their parents come and they take them around the park and they show them things they got to do. And that’s good.”

“I love nature,” Crew Leader Monica Ford said. “I’m a really outdoorsy type of person, but being able to work with such a diverse crew of young women is a really enriching part of it.” This is Ford’s first year participating with YCC.

Talnagi hopes to participate with state parks in the future, either through YCC or as a seasonal worker.

“I want to go into conservation when I’m older,” said Crew Supervisor Laura Hickey. “That might be through state parks, national parks, international. Just wherever I can.”

Camila Vargas, left, and Ashley Miller take a break from working on creating a wood-enclosed picnic pad at Twin Lakes State Park. (Photo by Carson Reeher)

Camila Vargas, left, and Ashley Miller take a break from working on creating a wood-enclosed picnic pad at Twin Lakes State Park. (Photo by Carson Reeher)