Hikers have been enjoying the fruits of the Student Conservation Association crew’s labors, who recently spent a month maintaining trails across the island.
The seven member high school and college student crew, which included two students from St. Croix and two student leaders, stayed at Cinnamon Bay Campground from June 20 through July 20 and cleared trails from Ram’s Head to L’Esperance.
Sponsored by the Friends of the VINP, the SCA has sent a crew to St. John for the past seven years, filling in gaps left by the overworked and underbudgeted VINP.
“We rely on the SCA and their crew every year for a lot of our important trail construction work,” said Kristen Maize, Friends’ program manager. “The leaders of SCA have extensive training and really give guidance and help us out. The park is very overworked and in terms of big trail construction projects, it’s nice to have the help of the SCA.”
Long, Hot, Rewarding Days
While rising at 6 a.m. on workdays and spending long days under the hot Caribbean sun might not appeal to everyone, SCA volunteers find their work rewarding, explained 17-year-old Henri Loridaus.
“The world is calling and you can’t ignore it,” said Loridaus, who hails from Louisiana. “I’ve been camping literally all my life and I’ve done trail maintenance for other outdoor clubs. It’s something I’ve always done and I can’t imagine not working outdoors.”
The best part about joining SCA is spending time outside, according to fellow 17-year-old SCA crew member Ben Haddix, from Michigan.
“Getting to spend the entirety of your time outside doing something you can tangibly see the results of is a great experience,” said Haddix. “You can say ‘I did this for this park,’ and that is very rewarding.”
A month of working in the outdoors was exactly what 18-year-old Tova Berg, who is also from Michigan, needed.
Tranquility of Nature
“I like the tranquility of nature,” she said. “Getting away from the hustle and bustle of every day life in the states is important. I like forgetting about cell phones and televisions and computers.”
Student leader Joe Green’s life changed after volunteering for SCA, he explained.
“It was simply a life changing experience,” said Green. “I love being outdoors in the middle of nowhere. The experience opened my eyes to a whole new world and I just kept coming back until now I am leading a crew.”
Spending a month at a time working at different locations suits student leader Tayna Rich.
“Seasonal work is exciting,” said Rich. “I get wanderlust and don’t like settling down. It feels great to know you’ll always be working in different places.”
Rasheeda King, 16, from St. Croix, was interested in helping the VINP.
“I learned about this program through school and thought it would be fun,” said King.
Fellow Crucian, 18-year-old Jahkima Hamilton, was excited to spend a month on St. John.
“It sounded great to be over here and working outside,” said Hamilton.
Skilled in Trail Maintenance
Don’t be fooled by their ages, these volunteers in their teens and early 20s are skilled in the fine arts of trail maintenance. Using pick axes and machetes, the crew loped trails, clearing paths for hikers and removing overhanging bush. The SCA crew also dug holes and created drainage swales to protect the trails from excessive run-off.
“It’s hard work, they are out there digging holes in the sun, but they do a great job every year,” said Maize. “The impressive thing is that you have these young kids out there, but the quality of work they do is very impressive.”
More information at SCA, check out the Web site www.thesca.org.