CATONSVILLE, Md. (WJZ) — It takes work to keep Maryland’s great outdoors great in state parks.

As Alex DeMetrick reports, some of that job is being taken on by teenagers, who have never been in the woods before.

Whether it’s the solitude of a wooded trail, or the upkeep of a playground, like the one at Patapsco Valley State Park in Catonsville, providing recreation takes perspiration.

“Yes, it’s been hard, and the last couple of days, it’s been really, really hot,” said Brittany Wood of the Conservation Job Corps. “Work doesn’t really close down at all. It can be raining, hot.”

Work goes on for 300 teenagers who spent the summer working in Maryland’s Conservation Job Corps (CJC).

Spread out over six counties, for many, this is their first exposure to the outdoors.

“Some of them get off the bus the first day, and their eyes are as wide as saucers,” said Fred Banks, project director of the CJC. “They’re scared to death. But by the second or third week, they’re old pros.”

Whether it’s leveling ground for a new turtle enclosure, or finishing up a new storage shed for park equipment, teens aged 14 to 17 fill a gap.

“You can imagine having 300 extra pairs of hands during the summer doing work for us; doing conservation projects for us,” Maj. Gary Burnett of the Maryland Park Service said. ” Things which we’d love to do, but we can’t, because we don’t have the manpower.”

“It’s pretty fun, but I feel like I’m losing weight though, and I’m happy about that,” Wood said. “I’m stronger.”

That help adds up. Over the past four years, the Park Service estimates it’s saved a million dollars in contractor costs.

The teens also pick up some basic skills and a little summer money.

They also learn something else.

“I just feel people should treat our environment with more respect than they do,” said Anthony Gary of the CJC. “Because they just underestimate it . They think it’s just woods and trees, but it’s much more than that.”

It’s not all work during the six-week program. Job Corps members also get to enjoy the parks, with camping and rafting trips.


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