NPS Week 2017 - A Project with NJYC Phillipsburg

Name of Corps
New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg


Location of project
Gateway National Recreation Area – Sandy Hook Unit


When did the project take place?
Summer/Fall 2015


Describe the project. What did the crew do?
The NJ Youth Corps of Phillipsburg (NJYC) has long wanted to work with the National Park Service in some capacity. When we saw the developments within the Dept. of Interior’s ‘Youth Initiative’ to Play, Learn, Serve & Work in our national parks- we saw the perfect opportunity to do so. Through our relationship with the Corps Network (TCN), and previous experience with the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) on a Hands-On Preservation Experience (H.O.P.E.) Crew project at Hinchliffe Stadium, we were presented with a unique opportunity to perform historic preservation activities in a National Park- in this case, a complete demolition and reconstruction of the porch of the Park Headquarters (Building 26) Gateway National Recreation Area’s Sandy Hook Unit.

Gateway was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and is still recovering. Fort Hancock Historic District (a decommissioned US Army base at Sandy Hook) is comprised of over 60 structures in varying states of decay after seeing years of harsh weather given its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. The Park HQ building (formerly the Commanders Quarters) was severely compromised because of storm damage. Given its essentiality of function, and its prevalence as the primary structure in the Unit that visitors interface, NPS allocated resources from Hurricane Sandy relief funds to reconstruct the porch on the HQ building. Even with funding, NPS staff at Sandy Hook would be hard pressed to perform the task given due to additional backlog of routine maintenance work to be performed. Enter the NTHP, and the H.O.P.E. Crew program – which would secure the services of an approved historic preservation expert to guide and train NJYC members in the craft of preservation.

NJYC embarked on this project with high hopes and a lot of enthusiasm. We were challenged both physically & mentally. We learned about historic preservation and about the region in which we were working. We also learned about ourselves and what we were capable of. We came away from the project with a newfound respect for the diligence and exacting detail of recreating our history. We discovered in ourselves a respect for not only the craft, but for the process. Working with wood and stone, our labor echoed traditions that humans have been performing for millennia. Through preserving history, we are also ensuring the legacy of our work will continue; not only through the results of our efforts, but also in the hearts and minds of our Corpsmembers who developed an appreciation for hard work through the lens of recreating the past.


How did this project partnership help the park? What issues did this project address?
The immediate impact of this project in the community at Gateway was complex; First, and most prominently there was the visual impact – both NPS Staff and visitors of the park noticed what was going on and it fostered many conversations that might not have otherwise happened. The porch of the Sandy Hook Unit's Headquarters was dilapidated, damaged and in in need of serious repair. Improving the image of the very building representing the

public's interface with the park was imperative! Park Service employees even seemed excited that there was a presence of a program like Youth Corps on site, prompting many conversations on how NJYC could serve at Gateway in other capacities. From a visitor’s perspective, our presence offered opportunities for interactions with the public that allowed us to explain why were there. For example, CM’s were able to converse with one gentleman, Mr. Peter Bach – a visitor to the park and business owner from Sydney, Australia- He commented on the crews’ hard work and how it related to a business owner like himself – he would’ve hired any of our guys.

Secondly, the project had a lot of people promoting it. The NPS, TCN and NTHP were all promoting the project via emails, newsletters, websites and social media. We even had NJTV news do a story on the project. This promotion through varied mediums garnered a lot of attention and became a great recruitment tool as well.



What skills did Corpsmembers use/learn on this project?
All aspects of construction: Framing, Trim work, Roofing, Painting, etc., Basic Masonry, pointing

Quote from Corps staff about the project/about the partnership with NPS
Michael Muckle, Program Director at NJYC of Phillipsburg said, "Our HOPE Crew Project at Sandy Hook was, in retrospect, my proudest accomplishment to date in NJYC. Having wanted to partner with the NPS of any project for the longest time, I found the synergy arising from this multi-faceted partnership of the NPS, The Corps Network, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and NJYC was infectious. As a program director, it opened my eyes to what was possible."


Quote from NPS staff about the project/about partnership with Corps
Sandy Hook Unit Coordinator Pete McCarthy said of our work:

“The National Park Service has enjoyed hosting the New Jersey Youth Corps as part of the HOPE program, the crew has done a great job in the rehabilitation of the Building 26 porch which has created an outdoor laboratory for the group to expand their skills in historic preservation and construction.”

Additionally, John Harlan Warren, External Affairs Officer for the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway NRA said:

“The Building 26 porch restoration would not have happened nearly this soon, or at this little cost, if it wasn't for New Jersey Youth Corps Phillipsburg and HOPE. Gateway National Recreation Area's Sandy Hook Unit was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and it is still recovering. While we work on water supply, housing for park employees and other major points, we have set aside issues like the dilapidated front porch of our Headquarters building, which was structurally unsafe and looked terrible to visitors. By restoring the historic porch, not only do NJYC youths learn valuable career and workplace skills, but they also make us in the National Park Service look good---literally."

Gateway NRA Superintendent Jen Nersesian said at the ribbon cutting event,

"We couldn't be more happy with the results of this project. The work that was done in spectacular!"


Quote from Corpsmember
(what did you learn…what did it mean to serve at a National Park…etc.)

Corpsmember Khalil Little expressed, “We actually get the privilege to get to come here and work on this building. We get to learn about our history, and learn those things to make us better employees as well. Plus, we get to be at the Jersey Shore for the summer, getting paid to do all this. How could you not appreciate that?”

Corpsmember Phil Young said, "I thought I wanted to pursue a career in the culinary arts, but after this – I’d have to consider construction as well.”

Corpsmember Tyler Corter was thankful for the opportunity. Having some experience on construction crews before, he gained a heightened appreciation for the level of detail in some of the trim work. “I never thought I’d be able to participate in something as satisfying as this. I’m having fun.”




The Corps Network supports introduction of legislation that would dedicate funding to address National Park Service maintenance backlog

WASHINGTON, DC (March 28, 2017) – The Corps Network, the national association of service and conservation Corps, applauds United States Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) for introducing legislation today that would establish a funding stream dedicated to addressing the maintenance backlog at America’s national parks.

Blog Post - Wyoming Conservation Corps: A Wyoming Tradition in Public Land and Conservation

Evan Townsend
Wyoming Conservation Corps

Originally published on the Wyoming Conservation Corps website on September 2, 2016

I know what you are thinking – another blog post celebrating the National Park Service’s 100 year anniversary. Or, yet another post from the WCC describing how important our work is and how good we look while doing it. Well, you are partially, right. It is a big deal that the United States of America is celebrating its famous park service that so many countries across the world have mimicked in some way or another. And, it is a big deal that the United States was the first industrial country to create the idea and implementation of public land. Most of all, it is a big deal that Wyoming holds the territory and statehood allowing for these world first’s.

Among some of the most treasured “first’s” that Wyoming has produced, one of them permitting women the right to vote, are the state’s first’s in public land. Forty-four years before the National Park Service took its beginning steps as an federal agency in 1916, the world’s first national park – Yellowstone (1872) – opened American eyes to the possibility of land to be sanctioned for the primary use of recreation administered by the federal government. Respectively, the first USA land set aside for pure recreation to be run by a state government was Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove in 1864 – a beacon of hope and pride in the midst of the bloody Civil War.

  • 1872 – World’s first national park – Yellowstone NP (Wyoming)
  • 1891 – World’s first Timber Reserve turned into a public National Forest – Shoshone NF (Wyoming)
  • 1906 – World’s first recreation based national monument – Devils Tower NM (Wyoming)
In the first decades of the national parks and public land in general, access had become a trademark of the wealthy and upper-class with the famous inns and lodges built to accommodate the elite. Then, the Great Depression hit Americans and the world in 1929 through the entirety of the 1930s and into the 1940s. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was born out of a need to create jobs and worth for young men around the country from all walks of life or neighborhoods, build infrastructure on our public lands that accommodate all social classes, and promote the American ideal of liberty and pride through service for one’s country. Out of the 1,300 CCC camps across the country, 136 of them were located in Wyoming. One of the bigger Wyoming camps was located in Guernsey State Park and evidence of their amazing stone work can still be seen today.

The CCC years marked a new era for public land use. People from the middle-class and working-class could afford the time, money, and energy to visit our public lands and parks thanks both to a renewed interest in nature-based vacations and the wide-spread integration of the automobile. In 1971, the Youth Conservation Corps then came to exist employing young men AND WOMEN from all over the united states of all social classes, even youth as young as 14 years old, to continue the legacy of the CCC. You will never guess where one of their first projects were – Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

In the 1990s, semi-private non-profit conservation corps were being established all neighboring Wyoming and working on Wyoming’s public land. It was not until 2006 that Wyoming had it own conservation corps (WCC) to aid the other neighboring corps in working on the vast network of public land in Wyoming. We work diligently to work with project partners all over Wyoming, federal, state, and private, to improve public lands while empowering young adults to lead by example.

Every swing of our pick mattock, or axe bit chipping out wood, or evening campfire with glowing faces from various backgrounds and states, is an exercise in conservation and legacy.


AmeriCorps Crews from Two Member Organizations of The Corps Network to Restore Iconic Trails in Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Parks

The Corps Network Pledges to Help Get “Every Kid in a Park”

Every Kid in a Park campaign designed to inspire the next generation of cultural and environmental stewards; expand access to National Parks and other Federal Sites

The Corps Network Applauds Progress on National Park Service Centennial Act in U.S. House of Representatives

Legislation would ammend the Public Lands Corps Act of 1993, expand opportunities for Corps

WASHINGTON, DC – The Corps Network applauds last week’s progress in the United States House of Representatives on the National Park Service (NPS) Centennial Act (H.R. 4680). The legislation passed the House Committee on Natural Resources and now moves to the full House of Representatives for consideration. The bill contains two provisions that would amend the Public Lands Corps Act of 1993 for the benefit of Corps.

The Corps Network Applauds Progress Towards Passage of National Park Service Centennial Legislation

Recently released draft legislation contains amendments that would benefit Public Lands Corps


The Corps Network Joins SCA to Celebrate 99th Birthday of National Park Service

National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis and SCA President and CEO Jaime Maytas prepare to blow out the birthday candles.

Who doesn't enjoy celebrating a birthday? Take pity on those who can't or don't enjoy sinking their teeth into a delicious piece of cake.

Fortunately for The Corps Network's staff, on Tuesday we were invited to join the Student Conservation Association and the National Park Service for a "Servabration" at the Washington Memorial in honor of the National Park Service's 99th Birthday. Speakers included SCA President and CEO Jaime Maytas, National Mall and Memorial Parks Superintendent Karen Cucurullo, National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, and SCA Alum Ayomide Sekiteri. There were also a few small opportunities for fun, including a trivia contest and a small service project to assemble seed bombs.

SCA Alum and Volunteer Centennial Ambassador 
Ayomide Sekiteri with Mary Ellen Sprenkel, CEO of The Corps Network.

You can see more photos of The Corps Network staff and the event here.

Celebrations of the birthday of the National Park Service took place nationwide and online. The National Park Foundation published a list of 99 Ways to Find Your Park. For comedic pleasure, a Mother Jones story that made the rounds online titled, "I Can't Stop Reading One-Star Yelp Reviews of National Parks." Clearly those people didn't watch Acadia Gettin' Funky. The National Parks Conservation Association shared a nice new video [watch below].


We look forward to continuing to celebrate the National Park Service's 99th birthday and especially its upcoming Centennial! We know that The Corps Network and our members have played, and will continue to play, a large role in the stewardship of our national park system. We look forward to telling these stories over the coming years.

Boiler Plate: 
Who doesn't enjoy celebrating a birthday? Take pity on those who can't or don't enjoy sinking their teeth into a delicious piece of cake. Fortunately for The Corps Network's staff, on Tuesday we were invited to join the Student Conservation Association and the National Park Service for a "Servabration" at the Washington Memorial in honor of the National Park Service's 99th Birthday. Speakers included SCA President and CEO Jaime Maytas, National Mall and Memorial Parks Superintendent Karen Cucurullo, National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, and SCA Alum Ayomide Sekiteri. There were also a few small opportunities for fun, including a trivia contest and a small service project to assemble seed bombs.

The Corps Network Attends National Park Service's Find Your Park Launch Event

Today, members of The Corps Network staff attended a launch event at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. for the National Park Service and National Park Foundation's new Centennial anniversary #FindYourPark campaign. The goal of the initiative is simple: to connect new generations of Americans to their national parks in the ways that they find relevant and enjoyable. So Corps certainly have a role to play, as we know that many people want to volunteer and help maintain and protect their parks. 

The Corps Network staff was able to chat with Paul Ollig, Chief of Interpretation and Education for the National Mall & Memorial Parks.

"One of the great things about national parks is the opportunity to engage with all Americans and empower them to help us protect our national treasures. In 2016, the National Park Service Centennial provides a tremendous opportunity to expand the ways in which we reach out and engage new volunteers & organizations. Service and Conservation Corps and other groups through the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Initiative will be among those who can help us tap the talents of new & diverse generations of stewards. I look forward to working with The Corps Network and other groups to do this," said Ollig.

The official event was short, but included remarks from National Park Service George Washington Memorial Parkway Chief of Staff Aaron LaRocca, National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, White House Council on Environmental Quality Managing Director Christy Goldfuss, and National Park Foundation Acting President Dan Wenk.

The highlight was most certainly the recognition of a 4th grader who had completed 40 Junior Ranger programs nationwide. He was there in support of the Obama Administration's Every Kid in a Park Initiative that connects to the Find Your Park campaign.

The National Park Service also introduced several new exhibits, including a large interactive compass that directs you digitally to parks nationwide.

Last week, the LA Conservation Corps also attended a Find Your Park event and sent us the photo below, featuring LACC Corpsmember Bryan Langston, Russell Galipeau, Superintendant of the Channel Islands National Park, Jonathan Jarvis National Parks Director, and David Szymanski Superintendant of Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area.

The Corps Network looks forward to supporting the Find Your Park initiative over the coming years!

Boiler Plate: 
Today, members of The Corps Network staff attended a launch event at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. for the National Park Service and National Park Foundation's new Centennial anniversary #FindYourPark campaign. The goal of the initiative is simple: to connect new generations of Americans to their national parks in the ways that they find relevant and enjoyable. So Corps certainly have a role to play, as we know that many people want to volunteer and help maintain and protect their parks.
Blog Slideshow: 

National Parks — Places for All People

Article, written by SCA corpsmember Jay Chu, appears in The Daily Breeze. Published July 3, 2014.

Growing up in suburban Los Angeles, the sun was almost always out, and beaches, forests, mountains, hiking trails and lakes were never too far away.

Somehow though, this outdoor paradise was lost on me and my Asian Americans friends. When I wasn’t in school, I was over-studying in my room, attending Japanese school on Saturdays, playing some sort of instrument, or taking extra math classes.

Unknowingly, my friends and I were at the forefront of an issue that has stumped politicians, health advocates and parents for some time: How to get kids outside.

Fast forward to today. I’ve climbed mountains in Oregon, hiked parts of the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails, and met some of the most inspiring people during these adventures. The outdoors gave me peace, challenge, adventure — everything that my indoor lifestyle didn’t offer.

But I’ve wondered what made me make that switch from indoor to outdoor living.

Many minority parents don’t have the time, money, or experience to take their children beyond the city limits, and this held true for me and many of my Asian, Latino and black friends. A survey by the National Park Service (NPS) found that around 80 percent of national park visitors are white, as are more than 80 percent of NPS employees.

It was lucky that after my family visited Yosemite National Park when I was around 14, I found that the outdoors was the place to be for all people, no matter their race.

In high school I wanted to become actively involved in conservation. An internship with the Student Conservation Association (SCA), a national volunteer organization, gave me that opportunity.

During the three months I spent in Klamath Falls, Ore., I worked long days in the national forests, backpacking all over southern Oregon, volunteering at local farmers markets and making lifelong friends. When September came along, my only thoughts were “I’ve got to do this again” and “Why aren’t more people doing this?”

Friends say I’m a missionary for the outdoors, and for good reason: My stories seem to always start with “that time when we were in the woods …”

Spending a weekend camping in the mountains may sound daunting, but the lessons learned and the friendships made outdoors are invaluable.

Recently, I took part in NPS Academy, a joint project with SCA and the National Park Service. The goal of the Academy is to train young peopleaof color for careers in conservation and increase NPS’ workforce diversity. It’s a worthy ambition: After meeting African American and Latino conservation leaders at the academy I noticed how they brought different perspectives to their work. I felt the mix of viewpoints can only make the park system better.

This summer, I will be serving at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, and I hope to make conservation my life’s work.

Reflecting on my journey, I remember my first night in Klamath Falls. The supervisor took all the interns out in a field and we talked about our lives, goals and expectations for the summer. During our discussion, a little brown bat began flying around us and landed on my boss’s head. I couldn’t believe things like that actually happened in real life.

It’s moments like those I hope to preserve, but to accomplish that, we need people of all ages, races and backgrounds to understand — and enjoy — the experiences found at places like national parks.

Take that first step. You won’t regret it.

Rancho Palos Verdes native Jay Chu recently completed his freshman year in college.