“The Most Fun & Rewarding Summer of My Life”

This year’s AYCC worked hard in multiple divisions of Acadia, gaining conservation skills and meaningful friendships along the way.

The 2023 Acadia Youth Conservation Corps. (Photo by Erica Lobel, AYCC Coordinator)

This year’s AYCC welcomed 12 high schoolers who hailed from all over the country, including California, Wisconsin, Connecticut, West Virginia, New York, Maine, and Vermont. They were led by AYCC Coordinator Eric Lobel, and Crew Leaders Jen Vanegas Gonzalez, Carlyle Grundon, and Gondica Stryker, who was also an American Conservation Experience (ACE) intern.

The members, ages 15 to 18, spent eight weeks working in Acadia alongside multiple divisions of the park. That range of experience has become an important part of the program in recent years, said Lobel during the AYCC Family and Friends Day on August 18. The event welcomed AYCC members’ families as well as park staff and partners to hear about and celebrate a season of hard work, accomplishments, and memories.

During the event, Erica added that the program’s four pillars—work, play, learn, grow—were in full effect throughout the eight weeks the members were here, and they certainly worked hard.

They did trail maintenance, which included replacing 120 feet of bogwalk on the Giant Slide Trail, installing 21 checks on Cadillac North Ridge Trail, building 16-foot cribs on the Beech Mountain Loop Trail, and collecting 43 bags of garbage from the beachfront on Isle au Haut.

Trail maintenance with Acadia Youth Conservation Corps. (Photos by Gondica Stryker, AYCC crew leader and ACE intern, and Erica Lobel, AYCC coordinator)

Working with the vegetation management crew, they revegetated the Jordan Pond House vista with 300+ plants and hiked 558 pounds of soil to the summits of Penobscot and Sargent Mountains for vegetation restoration projects.

AYCC members also engaged in air and water quality monitoring, collected trail usage data, moved gravel at Wild Gardens of Acadia, and assisted Friends of Acadia’s Summit Stewards in rebuilding Bates cairns and engaging with park visitors about Leave No Trace principles. And that’s still just a portion of the season’s work.

“To really appreciate their work, you have to realize how much rock crushing was involved,” said Lobel.

Acadia Youth Conservation Corps Coordinator Erica Lobel makes remarks at the celebratory end-of-season “AYCC Friends and Family breakfast. (Photo by Julia Walker Thomas/Friends of Acadia)

Rock crushing is exactly as it sounds—taking a hammer to a big rock and making smaller rocks. It’s laborious and exhausting work, but those rocks go on to fill “cribs” and “checks” in the park, structures that help reduce erosion and keep Acadia’s trails in solid shape for years to come.

It was also a particularly rainy and wet season, which meant work sites were often muddy and challenging.

But, as Lobel and several AYCC members noted, while the work was sometimes challenging, it’s the people who made the experience fun and memorable.

(Photo by Erica Lobel, AYCC coordinator)

For AYCC member Ava Hoff, 16, the program was a chance to “meet new people and make life-long friends” while working in the park and “protecting something we all love and find enjoyment in.”

There were tough days, she said, but always, fellow crew members were there to lift each other’s spirits with conversation, songs, and some lively whistling. Along the way, Ava says she learned patience and a positive attitude “makes tough challenges manageable,” especially when you’re part of an amazing crew.

“It was the most fun and rewarding summer of my life,” she said.

2023 Acadia Youth Conservation Corps member Ava Hoff reflects on her season as part of the AYCC during the end-of-season Friends and Family Breakfast held at Acadia National Park Headquarters in Bar Harbor. (Photo by Julia Walker Thomas/Friends of Acadia)