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Central Region WIB

State Parks Youth Corps

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Workforce Challenge

MONTAUK STATE PARK, SALEM, Missouri -- Two young women hand pick truck loads of trash and debris from an old dump which has not been cleaned in thirty years. An engineering student works at restoring the mill which ground its last bushel of grain in 1927. Two young men use environmentally safe herbicide to eradicate invasive plants, and the native grasses and flowers choked out by them are beginning to rise again. A stream team, the first ever at Montauk, wades through the cold waters and scours the banks for trash, cutting down “death lines” of hanging fishing lines and hooks which snare birds and bats. “Each one of these projects has their own stories of success,” explains Steve Bost, Montauk park naturalist, as he holds a thick folder filled with other projects he intends to tackle. It’s a wish list of sorts, and its beginning to come true despite budget restrictions and manpower shortages.

Workforce Solution

The makeover of Montauk is possible because of a new program called the State Parks Youth Corps (SPYC). Governor Jay Nixon launched the program to provide much needed labor to Missouri’s state parks and much needed employment to Missourians ages 17 to 24. Nearly 1,000 young men and women are offered temporary, summer employment at Missouri’s 85 state parks and historic sites-working jobs which vary from trail maintenance to web design. A chief goal of SPYC is to encourage participants to “Think Outside” by working on projects which enhance Missouri’s natural resources.

At Montauk, Bost quickly recognized what SPYC could do for the park. He’s always made the best of available resources, but reductions were unavoidable. “We were so short staffed,” he explained. “We had to cut back on programs.” Montauk received a labor boost when more than two dozen SPYC members were scheduled to work. The program is implemented by local Workforce Investment Boards.

Outcomes & Benefits

Bost likes to remind the SPYC workers that in 1935, the park was built by young people like themselves. Hundreds of thousands of teenagers and twenty somethings were hired into the Civilian Conservation Corps during the great depression and put to work in projects which restored America’s natural resources and improved access to parks. For those who are interested in a career in wildlife science, forestry, or similar studies, SPYC can be quite a stepping stone. For a summer paycheck, it can be an interesting experience. Whether they’re studying for a GED or a college graduate, youth corps workers can leave the program at Montauk with a lesson in renewal. “There’s an eagles nest in what was a dump,” said Bost. “What could be a better token of restoration than that?”

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