ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Seven people ages 15 to 18 took part this summer in Acadia’s Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) program, which resumed in a new format following a two-year hiatus due to COVID.
The young people – two from Mount Desert Island, one from Blue Hill and four from out of state – spent eight weeks doing paid work in the park.
“They spent roughly half the season doing trail work, which included erosion control,” said Erica Lobel, the program’s coordinator. “We spent another two weeks building a bog walk of maybe 250 feet on the Giant Slide Trail. We pulled out (parts of a bog walk) that had been there for probably 30 years or more and put in a new one.
“Then we did a lot of cutting back of vegetation from the trails,” Lobel said. “We did that all over the park, including four days on Isle au Haut.”
The Acadia YCC was originally patterned after the federal Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which put young men to work on public projects. Between 1933 and 1942, CCC workers built trails, fire roads, fish hatcheries, dams, culverts and picnic areas in Acadia. They also worked in the forests, fighting insect infestations and fungal disease.
Prior to this year, the Acadia YCC participants did mostly trail work for the two months they were here.
“This year we changed it up a lot,” Lobel said. “We did vegetation management. We pulled thousands of glossy buckthorns, which is an invasive species, from the Kebo Brook Trail and the Great Meadow. We replanted a lot of plants at the Waterfall Bridge.
“We also did some carriage road maintenance, painting some gates, clearing out drains and clearing leaves out of the stream at Wild Gardens of Acadia.”
In restructuring the Acadia YCC program this year, the idea was to transform it from a strictly work experience to an educational opportunity. Participants spent some time with the park’s social scientist, Adam Gibson, to learn about his role in tracking visitation trends and visitor experiences and impacts.
They also learned about the visitor engagement and education roles of Acadia’s interpretive rangers.
Friends of Acadia (FOA) supports the YCC program financially, providing a clothing stipend for the young workers and a bonus stipend after they have completed the season to defray some of their transportation costs. FOA also funds some recreational outings for them.
This year, the hiring of park staff to work with the program was delayed, so FOA paid their salaries until they could become Acadia employees.
“We never know what surprises are going to come along, but we are ready to help however we can so that this program can continue,” said Paige Steele, FOA’s conservation projects manager.
She said the reformatted Acadia YCC program definitely seemed to be an improvement and a success.
“The park staff looked at other models within the National Park Service around the country and decided they could make the program a more enriching experience for the youth,” Steele said. “While we highly value their manual labor, we wanted to provide them with some other experiences, to give them an idea of the different kinds of opportunities that are available at national parks and other public lands agencies.”
In the past, the Acadia YCC program has had 16 young participants. Lobel and Steele said they hope to accommodate that many next year.