Volunteers gathered at Seven Bends State Park for autumn olive removal workdays on Saturday, October…
This fall, Friends of the North Fork teamed up with Seven Bends State Park for the North Fork Conservation Corps (NFCC), a six week program providing local teens with healthy, growth-centered work and outdoor recreation and educational experiences.
Our first-ever NFCC team came together in spite of all the uncertainty and confusion amidst the beginning of the 2020 school year, and ended up being a tremendous group! Led by community mentors Lou Gonzalez and Don Hindman, these five teens worked with Seven Bends State Park rangers on a service project and participated in educational and recreational activities at the park.
NFCC teens learned about the two historic reservoirs, high up on the Reservoir Trail at Seven Bends, and how they once provided the town Woodstock’s running water. Over three labor-intensive days (not to mention the hikes up and back!), our team cleared the way for stairs, installed a split rail fence at the upper reservoir, and cleared trees obscuring the lower. Once overgrown and easy for hikers-by to overlook, these sites now offer park visitors a chance to marvel at the engineering of the past.
Teens were also given the opportunity to connect with nature through educational and recreational activities. Led by avid fisherwoman Joan Chapman, the fly-fishing activity day included not only practical knot-tying and casting lessons, but also a look at the benthic macroinvertebrates that help reflect and support the health of riparian habitats. Talking about this activity, one participant remarked, “I learned a skill I will use the rest of my life.”
The NFCC team also hiked the trails with FNFSR’s executive director, David Brotman, learning about identifying vegetation before a presentation about pollinators and their importance from Scott Currie, president of the Shenandoah County Beekeepers and organizer of the apiary at Seven Bends, and his team.
Finally, the NFCC wrapped on October 30th with a kayaking lesson and float led by Mary Zook with Wildguyde Adventures featuring a talk by Trout Unlimited’s Seth Coffman about riparian ecosystems. About the float, “It’s nice just to be out in nature,” said a participant, “sometimes it’s easy to take it for granted.”
Participants and mentors alike agreed that the NFCC was an enriching experience, where members could participate in productive, enriching activities, learn new skills, and get outside in a safe manner to connect with nature and each other. This year’s team truly laid the groundwork for a sustainable and enduring program to cultivate stewardship, leadership, and collaborative values in our local teens.
A big thanks to everyone involved in making this pilot a success!