Mount Rainier Recognizes SCA Northwest's Contributions through NPS Director's Partnership Award
The National Park Service Director’s Partnership Award annually recognizes the outstanding accomplishments and/or lifetime achievements carried out by national park partners nationwide, everyday. It’s a great honor to SCA’s Community Crew program to be nominated by our long time partner Mount Rainier National Park.
Thirty years ago, in 1984, the Seattle oﬃce of the Student Conservation Association (SCA) launched an initiative to reach out to community youth, especially those in culturally and economically diverse neighborhoods, and to create opportunities for them to participate in conservation leadership in and around Seattle. Today the program serves almost 100 high school-age students every year, and has expanded to include youth from nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). Students participate during the school year in after-school and weekend projects, mostly in their own neighborhoods building trails and restoring parks, waterfronts, and urban landscapes, then join summer crews that spend two to six weeks working onsite in settings like Mount Rainier National Park. They learn about their environment through their conservation service, and through ﬁeld trips and camping expeditions, exploring green jobs and career opportunities, gaining skills, and learning ways to give back to their community.
SCA ﬁrst brought Community Crews to Mount Rainier National Park in 1994, and since 2000 has ﬁelded an average of three 15-day crews per year. Participants have constructed, rebuilt, repaired, and maintained dozens of miles of trail: creating tread, installing water bars, constructing retaining walls, building bridges, clearing brush, laying gravel, planting and transplanting native species, and digging out hundreds of stumps and boulders. After Mount Rainier’s ﬂoods in 2006, Community Crews almost single-handedly rebuilt almost four miles of the Wonderland Trail above Longmire and helped reconstruct the Glacier Basin Trail.
Even more important than the program’s construction statistics, SCA’s Community Crews have introduced generations of students – and often their families and peers – to a lifetime of stewardship. Many graduates of the program go on to serve on SCA national crews, as SCA interns in positions around the country, and most signiﬁcantly, as seasonal and permanent employees with the National Park Service and other agencies.