Youth Conservation Corps will carry on | VailDaily.com

Youth Conservation Corps will carry on

Scott N. Miller

Dominique Taylor/Daily file photoJosh Ruark, 17, right, and Kyle Moore, 17, dig a trough to relay wooden boards marking the handicapped-accessible trail as part of the Battle Mountain High School soccer team's Forest Service project for the Youth Conservation Corp earlier this summer at Shrine Pass.

EAGLE – This is too important to drop.For the past five summers, the Eagle County Youth Conservation Corps has put kids to work on state and federal land in the valley. Once they put down their shovels and hoes, they also get a lesson about the importance of preserving and maintaining public land.In return for the hard work and class sessions, the students earn money – not for video games but for a host of youth groups.”It’s hard work but the kids enjoy it,” said Andrea Glass, assistant coach of the Battle Mountain High School Dance Team. “And, one day’s work can get us $1,000.”Students at the Eagle County Charter Academy participate in the conservation program in seventh and eighth grades. The eighth graders use the money earned to help pay for year-end trips.The kids seem to enjoy the work, Principal Jay Cerny said, and the educational part of the programs – in which a teacher explains the importance of the work the kids have done – seems to stick with them. “But it’s hard work,” Cerny said. “A lot of the kids come back with blisters, and sore. For a lot of these kids it’s the first time they’ve done hard labor. It gives them a taste of what’s to come later in life.”

While teachers and coaches say they like the conservation corps, the future of the county program is a little uncertain at the moment due to the loss of a couple of key grants. One of the grants going away after this summer represents about $30,000 of the program’s roughly $70,000 budget.All three Eagle County Commissioners say they’re eager to keep the youth program alive, with or without grants. “With about $50,000 or $60,000, we could run it as it stood this year,” said Sharee Wettstein, who runs the program.”Our number of youth, the number of projects were perfect this year,” added Jen Curd, the part-time project director.With that in mind, Commissioner Tom Stone suggested the county could put $55,000 into the conservation corps in 2006.Commissioner Arn Menconi wondered if the county might be able to use some of the money set aside for open space maintenance to the youth program. The county’s attorneys will ultimately have to answer that question.If more money can be found for the youth program, Wettstein said there could be more work in and around towns. That work could include helping towns and homeowners cut down the risk of wildfire on and around their property.Whether the program grows or stays at the level it was this year, Glass said she and her girls are eager to keep working.

“It’s been very effective for us,” she said. “It’s a great team-building exercise.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or smiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado