Thirty-seven high school students will contribute more than 9,000 hours of conservation service at Mount Rainier National Park this summer under the auspices of an America’s Best Idea grant from the National Park Foundation.
Mount Rainier is one of 34 national parks across the country that received a grant this year. Inspired by the critically acclaimed Ken Burns documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” the grant program funds park activities designed to connect diverse, underserved and under-engaged populations throughout the United States with their national parks.
“One of the great things about our national parks is that every American can relate to these treasured places if given the chance to experience them,” said Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis.
At Mount Rainier, the America’s Best Idea grant supports a long-standing partnership between the Park Service and the Student Conservation Association (SCA). Jay Satz, regional vice president of SCA, said a goal of the organization is “to build the next generation of conservation stewards” through service in national parks.
SCA works with high school students in Seattle during the school year “and then brings them to Mount Rainier to serve with 15-day trail crews during the summer,” said Kevin Bacher, manager of the park’s volunteer program.
In addition, almost half of this year’s 37-person crew is from families at Joint-Base Lewis McChord, via a program called Base to Base Camp.
Bacher said the young people already have been at work this summer on improvements of Trail of the Shadows at Longmire. They are “having an extraordinary experience” while working in eight-member teams, he said.
More crews will be in the park later this month and in August.
SCA also has provided interns for several decades to work with park personnel in support roles serving the public.
Additional funding for the program comes from the National Park Service’s Youth Partnerships Program and Washington’s National Park Fund.
(Read more in the July 24 print edition of The Dispatch)