A Great Outdoors Month celebration, event included announcements from AmeriCorps and National Park Foundation leadership regarding more than $13 million in investments to expand conservation service, particularly in environmental justice communities.
Volunteers included AmeriCorps members and others from multiple national service programs.
WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, June 9, The Corps Network’s seventh annual Great Outdoors Day of Service united more than 100 volunteers for maintenance and improvement projects at Fort Dupont Park, a National Park Service site in Washington, DC. Held in recognition of Great Outdoors Month, the event included an announcement from AmeriCorps leadership regarding a more than $12.8 million investment in Conservation Corps, as well as an announcement from National Park Foundation (NPF) leadership regarding an investment in a new program to expand work between Corps and national parks. Both investments focus on bolstering equitable access to the outdoors and national service.
The Corps Network Day of Service seeks to highlight the importance of national service programs and volunteers in maintaining public lands, expanding outdoor access, and building America’s climate resilience. AmeriCorps CEO Michael D. Smith participated in the event to announce more than $12.8 million in combined awards to The Corps Network’s Opportunity Youth Service Initiative (OYSI) program and The Corps Network’s AmeriCorps Education Award Program (EAP).
Over the 2022-2023 program year, these initiatives will engage more than 3,750 young adults and veterans in conservation-focused national service. This marks a significant expansion of OYSI, which, since the program’s launch in 2013, has engaged more than 4,000 young people in education and environmental stewardship projects that improve access to public lands and promote energy efficiency in low-income housing. At least 80 percent of the participants in OYSI are “Opportunity Youth”: young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who have been unemployed for at least six months prior to the start of their service.
“For nearly three decades, AmeriCorps has invested in the work of Conservation Corps who play a key role in tackling the climate crisis,” said Michael D. Smith, CEO of AmeriCorps. “I am thrilled to announce two new AmeriCorps grants to The Corps Network, which will empower thousands of AmeriCorps members to improve public lands and waters, promote energy efficiency, and address climate change in more than 40 states across the country.”
Dr. Tracey Ritchie, Vice President of Education and Engagement at the National Park Foundation participated in the Day of Service to announce the launch of the National Park Service (NPS) Youth Corps Partnership: an initiative to assist national park sites in engaging Conservation Corps to complete critical maintenance work made possible by the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA). Funding from NPF will support capacity at The Corps Network to work with National Park Service Maintenance Action Teams (MATs) to scope and facilitate projects in which Conservation Corps can assist small and medium parks, particularly in urban areas. This collaboration will provide parks with skilled assistance to accomplish deferred maintenance and will broaden opportunities for young adults to gain service and work experience on national parks.
“Service Corps are a force multiplier for the National Park Service,” said Will Shafroth, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation. “The Corps Network offers tremendous experience in parks and is well-positioned to help the National Park Service identify needs of mid-sized and smaller parks where service Corps could be used to get priority work done more quickly than otherwise might be the case.”
“Great Outdoors Month is a time to celebrate the many ways to enjoy our lands and waters. We are deeply grateful to all our partners, Corps, and volunteers who participated today – and work with us throughout the year – to help maintain parks, expand access to outdoor spaces, and make public lands career pathways more inclusive,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network. “Thank you to all our event sponsors and supporters for their continued support for the work Conservation Corps do to care for our lands and waters and inspire the next generation of stewards.”
Launched in 2014, The Corps Network’s Great Outdoors Day of Service is an annual event in Washington, DC, that brings together Corps and friends of the Corps community for volunteer activities at a national park site. The event celebrates service and seeks to raise awareness about the critical role of national service programs and volunteers in maintaining public lands and waters, expanding equitable access to outdoor recreation, and building America’s climate resilience. This year’s activities at Fort Dupont Park included invasive species removal, structure maintenance, and debris removal.
The Great Outdoors Day of Service is an event of Great Outdoors Month, a Presidentially Proclaimed month-long celebration of responsible, healthy outdoor recreation on local, state and federal lands and waters.
The Corps with Corpsmembers and alumni in attendance at the Day of Service included American Conservation Experience (National), Conservation Legacy (National), Green City Force (New York), Maryland Conservation Corps, Montgomery County Conservation Corps, New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg, PowerCorpsPHL (Pennsylvania), and Student Conservation Association (National).
Additional speakers at the event included Sean Babington, Senior Advisor for Climate, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Shawn Benge, Deputy Director, Operations, National Park Service; Derrick Crandall, Chair of The Corps Network Board of Directors; Letise LaFeir, PhD, Senior Advisor, Office of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, NOAA; Joan Mooney, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget, Department of the Interior; and Tara Morrison, Superintendent, National Capital Parks-East, National Park Service.
Sponsors and partners of the event included the U.S. Forest Service, Guest Services, Inc., the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Agents of Discovery, the National Park Service, AmeriCorps and the National Park Foundation.
The AmeriCorps members participating in the 2022 – 2023 program year for OYSI and EAP will begin their service in the fall. The more than 1,100 OYSI members will develop skills while completing critical conservation projects in their community. During their term, members earn certifications, complete high school requirements, and receive assistance transitioning to employment or postsecondary education.
During the upcoming program year, OYSI AmeriCorps members will serve across 20 states and will be responsible for weatherizing at least 90 low-income housing units and improving over 6,700 acres of public land, 549 miles of trail, and 83 miles of waterways. The nearly 2,600 EAP members participating in the upcoming program year will serve across 43 states and the District of Columbia and, among other outcomes, will improve more than 21,300 acres of public land and over 2,000 miles of trails and waterways.
Every year, the National Park Service partners with Conservation Corps programs to complete a range of projects at parks across the country. In fiscal year 2021, more than 20 Corps collectively completed over $24 million in work for the National Park Service. The National Park Foundation has long supported Corps partnerships with the National Park Service, most recently making an announcement of a $4.1 million investment in Corps-facilitated climate resilience projects on NPS sites over the coming year.
Corps assist the National Park Service with trail construction and maintenance, habitat restoration, wildfire fuels management, historic preservation, data collection and mapping, visitor education, and other mission-critical project needs. Where there are project needs beyond a park’s staff capacity, Conservation Corps offer a way to complete work in a timely and cost-effective manner and provide parks with the opportunity to mentor and work alongside a new generation of aspiring resource management professionals.