Not just a job ...: Refuge recruiting for YCC positions

Posted: Friday, April 03, 2009

Schools will soon be out across the Kenai Peninsula, which means many teens will be looking for work, and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is hoping to attract a few kids with a passion for being outdoors.

Photo Courtesy Of The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Photo Courtesy Of The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
The 2008 Youth Conservation Corps enrollees, from top to bottom: YCC crew leader Ryan Beltz, Tyler Johnson, Kahlia Johnston-McDermott, Dominick Eubank, Casee Penrod, Mike Horton, Jacob Cheek, Kim Cabot, Lara Olsen, and assistant YCC crew leader Christa Kennedy.

"The refuge is currently accepting applications for eight summer Youth Conservation Corps jobs, and it's an excellent program," said YCC leader Ryan Beltz.

YCC enrollees work and learn together, as a team, to accomplish outdoor projects that further the conservation of the natural resources of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, including trail maintenance and rehabilitation, historic cabin restoration, campground maintenance, litter pick-up, and special projects. Enrollees will participate in environmental education on a weekly basis.

"We basically try to get kids into the woods, to turn them on to conservation projects, but it's way more than an introduction. They don't just learn skills, they master them," Beltz said.

Last season, YCC enrollees worked on a variety of projects, such as the installation of bridges along the Fuller Lakes Trail, to name just one.

"We did a couple of big projects in that area, and the kids did it all. They felled trees, notched them, milled then, and built a bridge out of these raw materials, right on site," Beltz said.

The finished project was of exceptionally high quality too, he added.

"The kids did a great job considering some of them had no experience, not even with the tools they used. The bridge is actually a pretty nice structure," Beltz said.

This season the refuge has projects planned for the Tustumena Lake area, and one on the popular hiking destination Skyline Trail in the Mystery Hills area.

"We have two projects on Tustumena Lake. One is the restoration of a cabin on Big Bay. The other is some trail work that needs to be done on Emma Lake Trail. We'd also like to some stairs on Lower Skyline to give it a facelift," Beltz said.

This may sound like a lot of work, and it is considering how short the YCC employment season is. Youths will work 40 hours a week from June 8 through July 31. On a few occasions during that time, youths will also live in spike camps briefly, typically for up to four days and three nights.

"This is in line with conservation too. It's much better to have them camp for a few days, than driving an hour each day. It also gives the kids more time to hike or enjoy the area after work," Beltz said.

YCC enrollees may have to work hard, but they are also compensated well for their efforts. They receive $8.95 an hour, and Beltz said there are a lot of other benefits to their work.

"The kids get to get out and experience all the environments of the refuge. They learn to cook, plan meals, and other life lessons. They get to get out in nature and see there's more to life than video games," he said.

High school students 15 to 18 years of age are eligible to apply. Applications for the eight YCC positions will be accepted from now to May 8. Applications may be picked up at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, Alaska Employment Service Office in Kenai, or from local high school career counseling offices. The positions will be filled via a random selection process and selected applicants will be notified by phone no later than May 15.

For more information about the YCC program, contact the refuge at 262-7021.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at

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