Mary Ellen’s Blog: The Next Generation of Historic Preservationists

April 7, 2014

By now, many of us who are familiar with the conservation world have heard the numbers:  as of 2012, a full 38% of the Department of the Interior’s workforce, 35% of the Department of Agriculture’s workforce and 25% of the Bureau of Land Management’s workforce became eligible for retirement, and these numbers only continue to grow. Fortunately, every day thousands of young people across the country learn about conservation and develop green skills through Service and Conservation Corps programs. By providing teens and young adults the opportunity to serve outdoors, Corps foster the growth of America’s next – and more diverse – generation of environmental stewards.  

 By training the future protectors of our natural spaces, Corps help ensure that our parks and waterways are preserved for generations of American’s to enjoy. Now, through The Corps Network’s partnership with The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Corps will also help ensure that America’s historic buildings, neighborhoods and landscapes will also be preserved for future generations. 

Right now, Corpsmembers with the first Hands On Preservation Experience (HOPE) Crew are working alongside preservation experts of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Park Service to restore the Skyland Stable at Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. At the completion of this project, the newly-repaired 1930’s stable will connect the public to over 200 miles of equestrian trails, and the first HOPE Crew cohort will be trained in craft skills and important preservation techniques.   

The Skyland Stable restoration project is just the beginning: the goal is to complete 100 HOPE Crew projects throughout the country by 2016. Working with the Trust, the Park Service and private funders, members of The Corps Network will have the opportunity to engage their Corpsmembers in the preservation of structures and places that are important to the history of our country.

Corps already provide much needed help in addressing the billions of dollars of backlogged maintenance work in our national, state and local parks. HOPE Crews represent another way that Corps will make a real and lasting impact on the places that define our communities. For decades, Corps have helped young people gain skills in land and water management. They have helped Corpsmembers understand and appreciate our connection with the natural world. It’s exciting to know that now, by serving in HOPE Crews alongside craft professionals, Corpsmembers will also gain skills in historic preservation and learn the importance of our connection with the past. I’m excited to be a part of the Corps movement as Corps play a larger role in developing not only the next generation of conservationists, but also the generation of preservationists.