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The Youth Conservation Program is more than a summer job; it’s an action-packed educational opportunity that accomplishes much needed work in one of America’s most popular landscapes while helping participants develop a personal conservation ethic. Each summer in Grand Teton National Park, a group of 16 to 19-year-olds works, earns, and learns during this highly successful ten week program.

The Grand Teton National Park Trail Crew heads out to Bradley Lake with the Youth Conservation Program

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Since the program began in 2006, 150 students have contributed nearly 55,000 hours of work that Grand Teton National Park wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. YCP crews improve trail access, protect fragile habitat, and preserve historic sites—hiking miles of park trails in the process. At summer’s end, students emerge from the program toting a bit more maturity, a few more muscles, and an invaluable passion for time spent outdoors. 100% of the program’s funding is provided by donors to the Grand Teton National Park Foundation.

I got to head out with the YCP this week to check out some of their trail work near Bradley Lake. The team has been working on many projects this summer, but this day were working on replacing the Bradley Lake outlet bridge. The Bradley-Taggart trailhead is one of the most popular in the valley, so this particular project will positively affect the hiking experiences of many in the park.
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Trail Crew leader Elizabeth had the team ready for action.
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Part of the team moves a log into place for the bridge. The old foot bridge had rotted out over time due to the wet/marshy conditions at the lake’s outlet. Replacing the bridge was a priority of the park because users were walking over the rotten logs and it was falling apart.
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Austin is a YCP worker for the summer from Casper, WY.
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Colin is a YCP worker from Jackson, also busy at work on the other side of the bridge.
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Bradley Lake is one of the many gorgeous spots in Grand Teton National Park, and thanks to the help of the YCP and Trail Crew the experience is being maintained and enhanced.
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The primary focus of the YCP is to improve recreational access for visitors and to protect fragile habitat. The crew builds/repairs bridges, constructs causeways in riparian areas, cuts new trail, and repairs erosion and conditions that make hiking difficult and destroy habitat. This year, the YCP crew will tackle asphalt removal at the Lupine Meadows trail and build a bridge at Emma Matilda Lake. They will also play an active role in the restoration work and new exhibit design being completed at Jenny Lake in honor of the National Park Service centennial in 2016.

Stay tuned to the Jackson Hole blog as we will be following some of the work of the YCP this summer. The video below shows the program in action:

More information on the Grand Teton National Park Foundation’s Initiatives

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More information on what’s going on on the trails with the weekly “Trail Talk” series