During the summer of ’69, twenty students arrived at Great Smokey Mountains National Park ready to clear windfall damage in Cades Cove and build over 40 check dams to stop erosion with the Student Conservation Association. Steve Strachan was one of those students.
Looking back on his experience, Steve says that it was amazing to see twenty kids with chainsaws, axes and shovels working in the woods and having the time of their lives. Little did they all know that by the end of the summer, they would develop the skills and the confidence needed to take on whatever task came their way – a benefit, Steve says, he still relies on today as a successful business owner, board member and philanthropist.
Over the course of that summer, Steve learned that it is possible to do something about conservation – rather than just talk about it. Steve learned that even digging latrines, one of his biggest challenges, can be fun with the right attitude. He also remembers their end-of-program hike along the Appalachian Trail as one of the best things about his SCA experience, “What a reward for all our hard work!”
Steve believes the biggest impact SCA had on his life is learning that if you feel strongly about something then you do something about it. Given the mounting pressures from population growth around the world, Steve believes that educating people about preservation and maintenance of our environment is more important than ever.
“The last thing we need to do is spoil our own nest,” Steve says. It took a great deal of foresight to establish our National Parks and public land system in advance of a rapidly expanding population. Steve believes that preserving these spaces means education and awareness about the planet, the environment and the extent to which we impact the environment.
While Steve is a great supporter of many organizations, he continues to support SCA in order to provide other kids with the opportunity to be of service to others, to the environment and most importantly, to themselves. Through his investment in SCA, Steve feels great satisfaction in paying back to a great organization while helping others participate in a hands-on approach to making a difference.
When asked what about SCA he wants others to know, Steve offered, “SCA is a wonderful organization that teaches awareness, responsibility, and provides an experience that most people can only dream of while preparing the next generations for the responsibilities of leadership and stewardship.”
Images: left: Steve and his family at Big Sur; right: photos research trip to Kingman Reef in the Line Islands with Scripps Institution of Oceanography where Steve currently serves as Chair of the Director’s Council.