By Jordan Thomas, ECWA Communications and Outreach Coordinator
The Conservation Corps of North Carolina (CCNC) Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) is a paid summer program that engages teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 years old in state-wide conservation projects. The crew, composed of four to six youth with two Crew Leaders, typically works three to five weeks throughout the months of June, July, and August. The Durham Youth Day Crew works with Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association (ECWA) and Urban Community AgriNomics (UCAN) to restore land across Durham. ECWA had the opportunity to work with the YCC in the past at Glennstone Nature Preserve and jumped at the opportunity to work with them again. The goals of this collaboration were to build and maintain trails at The Rocks and Beaver Marsh Nature Preserves. We also wanted the youth to be able to balance their work with something a little less physically intensive by painting trail signage that would be installed at The Rocks.
WHY OUR NATURE PRESERVES HAVE TRAILS
A large part of making nature accessible to watershed residents is ensuring that the walking trails at our preserves are functional and safe so that not only can they be spaces for enjoyment but also opportunities for learning . The Rocks and Beaver Marsh are two preserves that really feel the impacts of being urban preserves. There is often trash and debris at Beaver Marsh Nature Preserve due to its close proximity to the shopping center. The Rocks Nature Preserve is a small oasis for wildlife right next to Stadium Drive. These two preserves are within walking distance of many neighborhoods. By ensuring that people can safely interact with these urban preserves, we increase the opportunities for them to learn about the importance of the environment and their likelihood to advocate for the protection of the green space around them.
WHY TRAILS NEED CLEAR SIGNAGE
Trail signage at our nature preserves plays a pivotal role in enhancing the visitor experience while promoting environmental awareness and safety. Clear and informative signage helps guide visitors, preventing them from getting lost, and minimizing the impact on the wildlife. By conveying important information about trail regulations, wildlife habitats, and potential risks, trail signage fosters responsible outdoor enjoyment and encourages visitors to be mindful stewards of the environment as well.
IMPORTANCE OF YOUTH INVOLVEMENT
Climate change and urban development are challenges we face as we strive to protect land and water in rapidly developing Durham. Youth involvement in this work is crucial for fostering a sustainable and ecologically responsible future. Young people bring fresh perspectives and ideas to environmental initiatives that are needed in the field of conservation. Engaging them in our current efforts not only instills a sense of environmental stewardship but also educates and empowers them to be advocates for the nature around them. By actively participating in paid conservation projects, these youth gained hands-on experience, developed critical problem-solving skills, and cultivated a deep appreciation for nature.
The Youth Conservation Corps did an amazing job maintaining and installing trail systems at the Beaver Marsh and The Rocks Nature Preserves. Their work gained them paid experience in conservation that they can use for future career opportunities. They also have learned new ways to appreciate and advocate for the natural spaces in their communities. Through installing safe trail systems and installing trail signage, the trails at these preserves will be able to be easily used by visitors for years to come. We hope to continue to get to work with the Durham Youth Day Crew on similar projects in the future!
ECWA's vision is a living creek connecting human and natural communities in Durham. Through land acquisition, collaboration with the city, and public education, we hope to create a Durham where residents can bike or walk across the watershed and stop at local businesses and nature preserves along the way.