By Karen Mark
Entering my senior year of college, I had the amazing opportunity to intern in the beautifully forested and rolling hills in Brown County State Park in Nashville, Indiana. Turns out my summer internship did more than improve my resume. While I had studied environmental sciences, it was working out in the field that I truly understood the complexity and interconnectedness of ecosystems. I gained in-depth knowledge not found in textbooks as well as the importance of connecting people back to their natural surroundings.
I was enthused to learn about the River Revitalization Foundation’s (RRF) summer youth restoration crew for high school students. RRF is nonprofit land trust in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that establishes parkways for the public to use and enjoy along the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers. It also works to protect, preserve and improve the environmental health of the Milwaukee River Valley.
Similar to my internship, many of the summer youth crew members were urban youth and had not worked in the “great outdoors.” Over the eight weeks of the program, the students learned how to identify native and invasive species, removed invasive species such as burdock, planted native species, and built benches along the river for the public. Additionally, the summer youth crew educates visitors and youth about the history of the river and plant identification by leading hikes along the Beer Line Trail using the “Take-a-Hike” publication. Check out the summer crew’s video on RRF’s website called “A Day in the Life of the RFF Summer Crew” that they created to showcase the various projects and activities they completed.
Kimberly Gleffe, Executive Director of RRF, could not boast enough about the students to me, “This year’s summer crew was a fabulous group! They had a real sense of pride and cared about making a difference in the valley.” By educating the students with conservation knowledge and skills, I am certain that the Milwaukee River Valley will be cared for and maintained for future generations to enjoy.
If you live in the Milwaukee area, to get your hiking shoes on, get a copy of the “Take-a-Hike” publication for a guided tour around the Beer Line Trail and experience the Milwaukee River Valley. While enjoying the beautiful landscape and waterways, be sure to thank RRF and the summer youth crew for all their great work to preserve, protect and improve Milwaukee’s natural areas.
About the author: Karen Mark is a Student Temporary Employment Program intern in the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Environmental Management and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Public Service Management.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.