A 57-year Family Affair with SCA


Above: Michelle Bobowick serving at Yellowstone National Park in 1985

by Marla Bobowick, SCA 1982, Bryce Canyon National Park

It was 1958, when our family affair with the Student Conservation Association began. Since, then our family has continued its commitment to improving the world around us through SCA. While Dad has left the planet, I know he is smiling down on us, proud of our love of nature. And I thank my lucky stars for SCA.

At the age of 15, Dad, Morton Bobowick, responded to an ad in National Geographic and landed a spot in the SCA’s second group improving trails and restoring Hume’s Ranch in Olympic National Park.

“It wasn’t all work, though. Late on that first day, when we were all covered with sweat-caked dust and nursing tired muscles, someone casually mentioned there was an ideal swimming hole up the river,” Eric Rush, a fellow volunteer, explained. Apparently, Dad took off and jumped into the Elwha, “swimming like a speedboat and with a look of shock and adventure as his body reacted to the 35-degree water.”

Memories like that are indelible, and Dad wanted to share them with his girls. The summer I turned 16, I signed up for the SCA. Boarding the plane for Bryce Canyon National Park. I had no idea what I was getting into, but Dad taught us that we could do anything we set our minds to.

We lived at 8000 feet, hiked two miles to work, cut down trees, built dams in dry gullies, and fell asleep counting shooting stars. I loved it! As I wrote home in 1982, “We just finished our work and are getting ready for a 6-day, 30-mile backpack. I can’t wait!”

My sister, Michelle, followed SCA suit in 1985 to Yellowstone National Park, where her crew built a footbridge. Her journal entry captured a moment of change:

“Being in the wilderness in front of a fire is so relaxing and peaceful. I can forget completely about city life and my problems. I’m able to enjoy myself and also learn about myself. I’ve learned so much from everyone else, too. I feel as if I have already learned more here in couple of days than I have in my whole life. My values and goals are changing here, and I have a much closer bond with nature.”

Not to be outdone, Mom signed up with Dad for an adult crew in 1992 in Yellowstone National Park:

“We chopped down trees, stripped off the bark, dug rock into the streambed, and augured the logs to one another without a single nail. SCA inspired us to work hard, unified our group into a real team, and preserved the natural beauty of the park. I will never forget the pride and satisfaction we felt looking at the bridge we had created in one week. Working together, we proved we could accomplish anything.”

That same year, Cousin Rick Barga volunteered with the SCA in Olympic National Park:

“I spent the summer in the Hoh Rainforest, and it changed my life. I challenged myself digging out mud holes and hauling rocks in the rain. I sang songs and baked bread with kindred spirits. Most importantly, I had my first experience with spirituality connecting to the rainforest and recognizing nature as a place where I am safe and home. SCA was the first community I belonged to and one I will hold in my heart forever.”

In 2014, with Dad’s encouragement, Cousin Julian Liber volunteered at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park:

“My experience with the SCA was amazing and vastly empowering. I could see the real reason we do conservation work: because the outdoors evoke a great appreciation in anyone, and preservation of these wild areas is impossible without such appreciation. I now realize just how deeply my actions influence the world around me and that I can make these positive. After my crew completed a small bridge, one of the Vermont locals walked across it, showing us the impact of our hard work.”

This summer, 30 years after my sister’s SCA program, Michelle and her husband (a US Forest Service employee) will drive from Oregon to Michigan and introduce their children, Rosie (7) and Roger (5), to Yellowstone and many other national parks. I’ll be joining them for part of the adventure. Undoubtedly, as we all did during our SCA experiences, we will push ourselves farther than we thought we could go, fill our senses with all that nature has to offer, gather around the campfire in silence and in song, and return transformed.

The Bobowick Family has set up a sponsorship fund for new SCA members in memory of Morton Bobowick in hopes that his legacy and conservation values will influence others in the future.

Our Family Affair with SCA

  • Morton Bobowick, Olympic National Park, 1958
  • Marla Bobowick, Bryce Canyon National Park, 1982
  • Michelle Bobowick, Yellowstone National Park, 1985
  • Susan and Morton Bobowick, Yellowstone National Park, 1997
  • Rick Barga, Olympic National Park, 1997
  • Julian Liber, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park, 2014 & Pisgah National Forest 2015

Below: Marla and Michelle show off their new SCA T-shirts as the next generation prepares to protect the outdoors.