Talk with Alex DeLucia, AMC’s Trails Volunteer Program manager, and you’ll quickly discover how helping young people learn the techniques of trail work can not only benefit them, but their communities too. And development of those stewardship skills can change lives.
DeLucia has worked with local youth through the Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) program in Berlin and Woodsville, N.H., where participants have created and improved recreational trails for community use. In addition to learning how to clear drainages and set step stones, those young adults have learned the value of giving something back to their communities.
Youth play an important role in helping AMC maintain more than 1,800 miles of trails throughout our region. Participants in AMC’s Teen Volunteer Trail Crews also learn the importance of stewardship—and teamwork—as they care for backcountry trails, including those on such public lands as the White Mountain National Forest and Delaware Water Gap.
“These experiences often turn into transformative life lessons, as participants realize their work has a positive impact,” DeLucia says.
Instilled with a sense of pride and a desire to protect the places they value for exploration and recreation, young people in these and other AMC programs truly are forces for nature.
Planting the seeds of stewardship is fairly straightforward, and the results can be magical. Whether we’re talking Teen Trail Crew, A Mountain Classroom, Teen Wilderness Adventures, Leave No Trace training, Youth Opportunities Program, Outdoor Student Leadership Training, or other AMC initiatives that engage young people in the outdoors, we strive to bring them along the “stewardship continuum.” We introduce them to the outdoors and help them enjoy their time in nature, often by encouraging them to try new experiences and develop new skills. We also help them see the importance of caring for the natural world and the role—and the responsibility—they have in such efforts.
We can gauge success by watching those same young people become outdoor stewards, performing community trail work such as JAG participants have; making hikers aware of the fragility of mountain environments, as our Ridgerunners in the Berkshires do; or helping to protect woods, water, and wildlife by following Leave No Trace practices.
It is encouraging to see how many of today’s youth are concerned about the impacts of climate change, and are committed to finding solutions to environmental challenges. We’ve seen it though our outdoor programs, and our work with youth— early immersion in nature so often breeds a lifelong stewardship ethic.
Thanks to all of our instructors, volunteers, supporters, and others who are training the next generation and helping young people take their first steps along that stewardship continuum. I’m confident our future—and especially theirs—will be better for it.
CALL TO ACTION
John D. Judge