Though Jane Sunram served in the Corps more than 30 years ago, she still remembers her summer in the Young Adult Conservation Corps as a great opportunity that included hard work and changed her relationship with nature. Her crew was based in cabins at Lake Itasca, working days in the field.
Before his service in the Corps, Dain Spurgeon never imagined he would end up a professional firefighter. As a crew member and leader in 2010-11, he served all across Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and Illinois. Besides wildland firefighting and prescribed burning, he was busy with GIS surveying, maintaining parks and trails, planting trees, managing invasives and restoring prairies, forests, streams and shorelines.
Rachel Tooker served as a crew leader from 2008-2010 in Rochester, MN and Ames, IA, working on prescribed burning, invasive species removal, oak savannah restoration, trail maintenance and prairie restoration. Meeting and working with resource professionals and members of the Corps – who maintained great attitudes regardless of conditions and were passionate about making a difference in natural resources – was the most meaningful part of her time with the Corps.
As a crew member in Grand Marais in 1998 and a crew leader in Windom in 1999-2000, Jason Peterson served in the Corps when it operated under the wing of the Minnesota DNR. He remembers working on forest inventories, black spruce cone collection, snowmobile trail maintenance, tree planting, invasive species management and prescribed burns. He also helped Trails and Waterways staff with fishing pier installations, public boat access maintenance and development.
Conservation Corps’s newest hire is a familiar face to many in the Corps, having served on the Three Rivers crew in 2009-2010, first as a crew member and then as a crew leader, and most recently as Administrative Associate at the headquarters in St. Paul. Just this week, Nicole Skurich began a new role as Youth Outdoors! Assistant Program Manager, a brand new position added to accommodate significant expansion of the program.
As supervisor of the Little Falls crew in 1998-2000, Keri Hull worked hard to keep her crew motivated and on task during the challenging times, and found inspiration – and her aspiration – in the variety and depth of work she did for the Minnesota DNR. During her service, Conservation Corps was not yet a nonprofit and operated under the DNR umbrella. Hull worked on everything from wildland fire fighting to timber stand improvement to lake surveys to wildlife research. A particularly memorable experience was assisting with a deer and wolf capture at Camp Ripley.
As one of 30 DNR naturalist interns, Grant Carlson uses his experience from the Conservation Corps every day. Leading educational and interpretive programs in areas such as the Temperance River gorge, Carlson traverses the very trails he worked on as a Gunflint crew member in 2009 and a Tofte crew leader in 2010 during summers serving in the Corps’ Superior National Forest seasonal program.
Keegan Lund served as a crew leader in the Central district in 2003-2004, restoring shoreline, removing invasive species and constructing trails throughout the metro region and in northern Minnesota. One particularly memorable experience involved rescuing an ATV that had sunk in a bog of water and sphagnum that covered a logging road normally only used in winter when the bog is frozen.
When Taylor Scott was installing steps at Interstate State Park in 1991, he had no idea that 20 years later he would be a manager there. While serving in the Summer Youth Corps, he worked at a number of parks along the St. Croix River and the North Shore, clearing trails and installing steps and boardwalks. He found the experience especially valuable because he learned to work with people from different backgrounds and “the value of hard work at an early age.”
Neva Widner’s experience as a corps member in the Conservation Apprenticeship Academy during its inaugural year led to a quick and fortuitous opportunity. Widner served in the Carlton County Soil & Water Conservation District in the summer 2011, working directly with the District’s water resources coordinator. Her service ranged from water quality monitoring to wetland delineations to surveying streams and runoff on farms. Recently, when her former supervisor left Carlton SWCD, Widner was hired to fill the position of Water Resources Technician.