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. This past week the crew has been working on the John Moulton Barn.Words by GTNPF. Grand Teton National Park has identified Mormon Row structures as preservation priorities in an effort to ensure that future generations will understand the history of this unique farming community that now constitutes one of the most scenic areas in the park. Cultural resource specialists at the park have assessed immediate and long-term needs at Mormon Row and are addressing them accordingly.
This summer, progress on a particular area of need is being made by Grand Teton’s Youth Conservation Program teen trail crew, who is working in front of the John Moulton barn to salvage all corral fencing that is in usable condition, remove deteriorated rails and posts that are not salvageable, and replace the missing rails and posts to recreate the appearance of the original corral.
Work of this kind is extremely important because it preserves one of the character-defining features of the cultural landscape: the corrals. Though they seem like minor features, they are vital to telling the story of agricultural life along Mormon Row. Corrals are also at a higher risk for deterioration, as they are made of more ephemeral material than buildings.
Katherine Wonson, cultural resources specialist for Grand Teton, describes this project as a perfect fit for the YCP crew because it utilizes practical skills (building and maintaining fence) but also offers the chance to study a preservation project firsthand. The crew will be using HABS (Historic Architectural Building Survey) level documentation of the historic corrals to guide the reconstruction work. The YCP completed a similar project at the corrals at Bar BC six years ago.
Organization history: GTNPF was formed in 1997 to raise funding to build the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose. The $25 million facility was completed in 2011 and continues to be recognized as one of the most successful public-private projects in national park history.
Since then, the Foundation has continued to channel private support into Grand Teton to fund projects that extend beyond the capacity of the park’s federal budget. On an annual basis, our funding initiatives focus on wildlife protection and research, youth engagement, and cultural preservation. We provide funding for these programs each year based on specific park needs.
Wildlife: we fund research on migration and several specific species in the park including wolves, bighorn sheep, bears, and others. The Foundation also funds the training of Wildlife Brigade volunteers, who help manage roadside wildlife “jams” and facilitate safe visitor/wildlife interactions throughout the park. Our bear box program has funded installation of large bear-proof lockers at hundreds of front-country campsites in the park, with more being added each year.
Youth Engagement: Our efforts to engage youth in national park recreation and career opportunities are being advanced by three innovative programs. The Youth Conservation Program is in its 9th season and continues to bring young people to the Tetons to work as part of a summer teen trail crew. Pura Vida dissolves barriers between Jackson’s Latino community and Grand Teton National Park by offering extensive outdoor learning experiences, leadership training, and wilderness recreation to local Latino students and their families. The NPS Academy introduces diverse college students to a range of career paths within the National Park Service during a spring break session and subsequent NPS summer internships.
Cultural preservation: To date, the Foundation has funded restoration projects at several historic structures and sites in GTNP including Mormon Row, Menor’s Ferry, and Maud Noble’s cabin. GTNPF also helps fund display of several pieces of the Vernon collection, a priceless collection of Indian artifacts and clothing that is currently housed at the visitor centers in Moose and Colter Bay. The finished project.
In addition, we support capital projects that greatly improve the visitor experience in the park:
This $16.4 million restoration project will transform the park’s most popular destination by creating a welcoming interpretive plaza and greatly improving trails, bridges, and key hiking destinations including the iconic Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. The Campaign is a collaboration between the Foundation and Grand Teton National Park and will celebrate the NPS centennial in 2016 – our “birthday present” to Grand Teton.
We believe there is tremendous power in connecting Americans to their national parks. This public-private project will enable unforgettable experiences and expand understanding of the famed Jenny Lake, ultimately inspiring people to protect and preserve our national parks for the enjoyment of future generations. Amazing work by the teens.
More information on the Grand Teton National Park Foundation’s Initiatives
More information on what’s going on on the trails with the weekly “Trail Talk” series