Summer Youth Crew a Success on ANF – Lumber Heritage Region

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Summer Youth Crew a Success on ANF

Written by Holly Komonczi

Summer Youth Crew a Success on ANF

Unique Partnership Provides Educational Employment Opportunity for Local Youth


Marienville, PA, August 31, 2022— This summer the USDA Forest Service – Allegheny National Forest hosted a crew of high-school-aged youth recruited from within Elk County across the Marienville Ranger District and the Ridgway area. This crew was made possible by a unique partnership of federal, state, and local government, as well as a key non-profit organization. The crew was sponsored and directed as a Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew by the Allegheny National Forest, hosted by Ridgway Township, administered by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) through their PA Outdoor Youth Corps program, and recruited and supervised by the non-profit Student Conservation Association (SCA) with educational programming conducted by the Elk County Conservation District (ECCD).


The crew worked for six weeks in the Allegheny National Forest and Ridgway Township. The crew included high school students Maria Catalano, Kaiden Danekas, Brody Stauffer, Aidan Babb, and Mckenzie Danekas, and Crew Leaders Sheena Wendell and Marcella Smith. Working together, the crew completed natural resource and recreation projects while learning about the diverse career opportunities in natural resources and conservation.

  • They, along with a summer youth crew based at the Allegheny National Forest – Bradford Ranger District, helped construct a turnpike section on Hector Falls Trail.
  • They weeded and mulched pollinator gardens.
  • They cleaned up campsites along the Clarion Wild and Scenic River.
  • They planted over 400 red and white pine trees at Beaver Meadows Recreation Area.
  • They planted tulip poplar, white oak, sugar maple, red maple, and gray stem dogwood at Twin Lakes Recreation Area. They also stained wooden structures in the campground.
  • They brushed the Laurel Mill Trail System and began the Hemlock Loop Trail realignment.
  • They helped install a new trail along the Kinzua Connector near the Allegheny Reservoir.
  • In their last week, they completed numerous projects around Ridgway, including stream bank improvements, campsite improvements, and dock staining.

“This was a terrific partnership focused on providing a meaningful outdoor experience for youth in Elk County through paid employment and educational activities. I am grateful to all of the partners who contributed to the success of this program. And I am amazed at what this small group of dedicated youth was able to accomplish in just a few short weeks. They truly made a difference that will have a lasting impact on the natural resources of the ANF and the public using those natural resources on both the ANF and in Ridgway Township. We thank these young people for their service, and I hope this experience provides a spark that encourages them to engage in their communities and to steward their public lands in the future” said Marienville District Ranger Rob Fallon.

Established as a federal youth program in the 1970s, the United States Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) is a summer youth employment program that engages young people in meaningful work experiences in national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and fish hatcheries while developing an ethic of environmental stewardship and civic responsibility.

The PA DCNR Outdoor Youth Corps offers work experience, job training, and environmental education opportunities to young people who complete recreation and conservation projects on Pennsylvania’s public lands.

For the past 65 years, the Student Conservation Association (SCA) has been following through on its mission as a non-profit to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of the environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land.

In addition to the partners mentioned above, others joined together to offer this employment opportunity for local youth:

  • Ridgway Township hosted the crew at the Township offices on Route 948. They provided a base for the crew to assemble, store their tools, and adjust their plans when the weather intervened. This also provided an opportunity for the crew to interact with Township personnel when they worked exclusively on projects within the Township and Borough during their last week on the job.
  • Elk County Conservation District (ECCD) provided educational programming for the youth crew. The model for the YCC and PA Outdoor Corps programs is to provide one day of educational program each week of the program. The ECCD worked with the Allegheny National Forest to develop a comprehensive educational program for the six-week crew, and on Wednesday of each week provided staff and a focused educational curriculum in such areas as aquatics, forestry, recreation, wildlife, and green energy.
  • Allegheny Hike, Bike and Ski Club (AHBS) assisted with planning and executing work on the Laurel Mill trail system. The crew was only able to work on brushing out a new trail location because the equipment needed to establish the new trail tread was not available as planned. But AHBS continued to move forward with the Forest Service on this project after the youth crew had finished their work.