Joe Franckiewicz wants to be a park ranger, so the 18-year-old Meyers graduate is spending the summer getting some on the job training.
Franckiewicz is one of nine local young people enrolled in the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps, an off-shoot of the old Civilian Conservation Corps. The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and state Department of Labor and Industry finance the program, which is managed by the Student Conservation Association.
The six-week program brings together young people ages 15-18 in several locations throughout the state to work on state parks and forests in the area. Franckiewicz is part of the crew based in Wilkes-Barre, and he’s soaking up the experience to work in every state park in the region.
“I’ve been to all the parks and it gives me a new respect for the people who work there,” he said. “It’s very fulfilling.”
The group spends several days at each park, doing work that park managers and their staff just don’t have time to do or need an extra hand to get done. As of last week, the group removed invasive plant species at Nescopeck State Park, cleaned an ancient lock remaining from the old canal at Lehigh Gorge State Park, removed graffiti, cleaned up trails, built fences, stained steps and more.
“This isn’t amateur stuff they’re throwing at us,” Franckiewicz said.
Nor is it without multiple purposes.
“The educational component is big,” said crew leader Christine LaBar. “Staff at every park has sat down and talked with the kids, and they’re excited to learn something new.”
And the park staff is glad to have them.
Brian Taylor, park manager at Frances Slocum State Park, said the group was a huge benefit during the days they worked at the park. “With their help we’re able to get things done during our busy season that we don’t have the manpower or time to complete,” Taylor said. “You can tell they really want to be here, and if they continue to come back the park will continue to benefit.”