This week we welcomed Natural Bridge Park’s FIRST EVER Youth Conservation Corps (YCC). YCC is an environmental stewardship program designed for Virginia State Parks to engage young students in tangible, meaningful conservation projects, and is associated with Americorps and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. The group consists of 3 supervisors and 10 crewmembers, all of which are motivated, hardworking, and respectful individuals. During their three-week stay, the YCC girls will be involved in a variety of projects and activities across the Natural Bridge property.
Their first week onsite began with a tour of our massive 1,600-acre property, which none of the girls had set foot on before. It was a unique opportunity to witness their wonder and amazement upon viewing the Bridge for the first time, and to provide historical and environmental background specific to different locations on the property.
After orientation, the crew went straight to work sanding and staining picnic tables placed throughout the property (Summerhouse, Caverns, Hotel). The YCC also helped with the creation of Virginia’s first Archaeology Field School Education Program, a Virginia Standards of Learning-supporting exhibit that will educate thousands of students on the science of archaeology and understanding the value of historic and prehistoric people, culture, and events.
Next, the crew provided maintenance on the Monacan Trail, removing and clearing the path of overgrown branches and vines. The crew took breaks along the way to enjoy the scenery and observe our diverse wildlife, including salamanders, newts, box turtles, and a variety of plants and trees. Other first-week projects included clearing a neglected and overgrown greenhouse for future use, interpretive training with our Interpretive staff at the Caverns, Monacan Indian exhibit, and the Bridge, and creating a fire pit for future Boy and Girl Scout use.
We are excited what the next couple of weeks have in store, and remain grateful for crew’s participation and enthusiasm for projects that we truly need. We are quite lucky to have them here this summer, especially since we are not yet a State Park!
-Rachel Pence, VCLF