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July 6, 2022

HARRISBURG – Young adults in the City of Harrisburg are invited to get a first-hand look at a potential future summer program where they can earn money while taking care of the environment.

City leaders are partnering with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) on its popular PA Outdoor Corps workforce development event. This six-week paid program features youth in groups from 15-18 years old and 19-25 years old completing recreation and conservational projects on Pennsylvania’s public lands throughout the commonwealth.

From July 5 through July 8, five members of the PA Outdoor Corps’ younger group will be participating in a pilot program at Harrisburg’s Reservoir Park. City leaders hope to make the capital city a permanent fixture in environmental and conservational development, whether through DCNR or on its own. 

Participating PA Outdoor Corps members are being paid around $13/hour by the commonwealth, and city leaders hope to install a similar program in Harrisburg as early as summer 2023.

“We want the next generation of conservationists to come out of our diverse city,” said Mayor Wanda R.D. Williams. “This program, should we be so fortunate to make it an annual event, will give kids here something to do in the summer when they’re out of the classroom, as a way to put back into the community and make it more beautiful and safer.”

While at Reservoir Park, PA Outdoor Corps members will learn invasive species management, with specific education on dealing with Spotted Lanternflies. There will be lessons in staining, painting, and mulching, and how to use basic tools. Tree pruning and planting is on the agenda, as well as GIS mapping. The group will work from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.

Among the projects needed work done at Reservoir Park this summer include scraping and painting doors and window trims, replacing and painting guiderails on trails, electrical work on multiple outlets which need replaced, screen doors which need replaced, and sign repair masonry work, according to City of Harrisburg Parks and Recreation Director David Baker.

The hope is young people in the City of Harrisburg can see the hands on work being done by the PA Outdoor Corps and sign up in future years.

“What we want to do is to educate our youth and our young adults about taking care of our planet, taking care of their neighborhoods, and taking care of our trees or forests,” said Harrisburg environmental advocate and program organizer Rafiyqa Muhammad. “This is an opportunity that they can look at other alternatives, and make changes in their lives.”

Muhammad, who is also a member of the DEP Environmental Justice Advisory Board and Harrisburg Environmental Advisory Council, came up with the slogan “Shovels up. Guns down,” to describe how she hopes to use it as a way to get young adults active and out of trouble during the summer months.

There is a photo opportunity for local press at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, July 6 to view the work being done by PA Outdoor Corps members. DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn will be there, along with Mayor Williams, and Pennsylvania Labor and Industry Secretary Jennifer Berrier. Children throughout Harrisburg are also invited to attend the four-day “trial week” to see and highlight the work being done by group. Questions about the program are invited and encouraged.

The youth employment and enrichment program is managed by the DCNR in cooperation with the Student Conservation Association and with financial support from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s Reemployment Program, along with private contributions made through the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation.

“Beyond being great ways to spend the summer or year doing meaningful, lasting work, the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps is a gateway into employment in the conservation field,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “We look forward to continuing efforts with the City of Harrisburg to interest young people in working for the program that provides connections to community, nature, and public service, and work skills necessary for future successful employment.”