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Minnesota Conservation Corps:
Since 2002, UMD Facilities Management has been part of an interesting partnership with Minnesota Conservation Corps, a Minnesota service organization.
Each summer about 16 Conservation Corps youth workers show up at UMD to help manage the nature trails in the Bagley Nature Area. Bagley is made up of 55 acres of forest, pond, and open area on the northwest part of campus. The property is home to sections of old growth forest, plants and wildlife.
The workers come from their homebase at St. Croix State Park in groups of eight and stay for a week. They camp in the woods, sleep in tents, and cook meals over an open fire. It’s all pretty ambitious for the teens, ages 15-18, especially since the groups are made up of hearing, deaf and hard of hearing young men and women.
UMD is a one-week urban wilderness experience that is a little less rugged than the seven weeks they spend at other sites, which can include Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Superior National Forest, Voyageurs National Park, several state parks, or other conservation organizations throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. In 2007, members also helped out the Duluth area with a special project. They did trail maintenance on the Munger Trail.
The corps members get a taste of UMD when they work at Bagley. They get to visit the UMD Alworth Planetarium for a stargazing show. UMD’s Recreational Sports and Outdoor Program folks take the group kayaking at Park Point, and into the Sports and Health building to use the UMD climbing wall. The group has often been provided with a picnic at Enger Tower.
Peggy Dahlberg, Landscape Maintenance Supervisor, enjoys meeting the teams. “Most of the members have never been in the woods before,” she said. “Some of the kids are enthusiastic and others are pretty quiet. We do our best to make it a fun experience for all of them.” Over the years, Peggy has seen some common reactions to a week at UMD. “They are happy to have a port-a-potty,” she said. “But it’s still a badge of honor to go a week without a shower.” UMD contributes $5,000 to the Minnesota Conservation Corps organization for their services.
Corps members participate in educational and environmental learning each week. Most of what they do at UMD is remove the invasive buckthorn, and help repair trails with soil erosion problems. Last year, they built a small walking bridge. They work with a UMD student employee, a facilities grounds person (this year it was Craig Robarge), and two Conservation Corps leaders.
It isn't a typical classroom setting; it's hands-on learning that is
exciting and rewarding.
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