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Teen trailblazers make a difference

South Boston News
Members of the Youth Conservation Corps at work building the new universal-access trail at Staunton River State Park. (VSP photo)
SoVaNow.com / July 14, 2014
Visitors to Staunton River State Park can enjoy a new attraction — a universal-access trail extending seven-tenths of a mile — thanks to the efforts of seven young men and a three-person supervisory crew with Youth Conservation Services.

The ADA-accessible trail built by Conservation Corps members leads across the road at the Visitors Center to an overlook on the Staunton River.

“These guys worked very hard,” said head Conservation Corps Supervisor Kinner Ingram of Roanoke, describing the teenage boys who have toiled for the past three weeks with the Youth Conservation Services program. When he described the trail as a half-mile in length, one of the boys chimed in: “It was closer to a mile.”

The official trail measurement is 0.68 miles.

The boys termed Ingram a “tough task master,” yet very likeable, despite the fact that he made them do push-ups.

According to Ben Isaacs, a summer intern working at the park, the young men who arrived there on June 22 first had to bushhog the trail, then lay plastic sheeting over it to prevent the growth of weeds and other vegetation. Next, they applied crushed rock; then polished off the trail with rock dust that fills in crevices, giving it a smooth surface.

The trail is fully accessible to persons who use wheelchairs.

“This is something most state parks have had for some years, but this is the first time Staunton River has been able to offer it,” Isaacs said.

The seven young men, 14-17 years old and all from the state of Virginia, also worked on renovating the park’s amphitheatre. Isaacs said they pressure-washed all the benches, including those around the fire ring, and then re-stained them all.

During their three-week stay, the boys also conducted a clean-up along the banks of the Dan River and worked shifts in the Visitor Center as well as at the pool and playground areas. Their evenings and weekends were taken up by environmental educational programs and enjoying special adventures such as fishing, swimming, canoeing, and other outdoor activities.

Venturing from across the state to Staunton River were Nathaniel Dinkel of Alexandria, Bradley Minger of Stafford, Franklin Page of Grayson County, Gabriel Rothbart of Annadale, Steven Speas of Gloucester, Steven Tatum of Stafford and Jacob Watrous of Warrenton.

The seven-person crew was supervised by Ingram and Garrett Gipson and Jacob Patterson, both of Williamsburg.

This Saturday, the boys graduated from the program as parents and family members gathered at the park to mark the occasion. Each boy received a stipend check of $500 for the work.

The Conservation Corps program offers two three-week sessions each summer for youths who are interested in the opportunity to serve the state and community while learning the values and skills necessary for the workplace and for their personal financial stability. Participants may chose which of the two sessions they want to attend, but they do not get to chose the location of the park in which they will work.

Corps members live in the park with three college-age supervisors who oversee conservation and park projects while fostering teamwork, self-esteem, social responsibilities, as well as a healthy respect for the environment.

Isaacs, who is interning at Staunton River this summer, said he had been a Conservation Corps participant on two prior occasions: at Fairystone State Park and Crater Lake State Park. Both were such good experiences that he finds himself back during this summer at Staunton River.

“Having the boys here has given us the capability to do things that we could not do with our regular staff,” Isaacs said. He added, “They have really contributed a lot to the park.”

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