Grand Canyon National Park, AZ (Vocus) March 9, 2010
In an atypically “wild” spring break, 60 college students from across the U.S. will soon converge on Grand Canyon National Park to return a former parking lot to its natural state by planting thousands of native plants near the Canyon’s South Rim.
The project is part of the final phase of a multi-year effort to address the impact of vehicular traffic and parking on park resources, public safety and visitor experiences at popular Mather Point. The volunteers are all members of the Student Conservation Association (SCA), a national service organization dedicated to ''building new generations of conservation leaders.''
“Once marked by motor homes and minivans, this formerly blacktopped area will be home again to native shrubs and grasses, as nature intended and visitors prefer,” states SCA Vice President Kevin Hamilton. “In just a couple of weeks, these volunteers will complete a ‘green-lift’ that will put some 8,000 plants in the ground, a task park officials say could have taken seasonal staff months to accomplish.”
SCA’s Alternative Spring Break, sponsored for the third consecutive year through a grant from American Eagle Outfitters, drew five times as many applications as there were positions within just a few days of being posted on the group’s website, according to Hamilton. “Service, stewardship and sustainability are very important to today’s students,'' he notes. ''When you add to that an icon like the Grand Canyon, the desire to take action and make a stand runs off the chart.”
Bonnie Raschke, an Ecology major at the University of Arizona, says after reducing her own ecological footprint, she wants to do more. “Recycling, donating and petitions aren’t enough,'' Bonnie states. ''I want to get my hands dirty.” Austin Barrett, a Parks, Rec & Tourism major from South Carolina, cites a similar motivation. “The decisions we make today will carry over into the future, leaving either a legacy of conservation or devastation,” he says.
Two SCA teams of 30 students each will spend a week in the park, the first from March 14-20 and the second from March 28-April 3. Work days will include planting native vegetation in some areas, salvaging native plants in others, and removing invasive species. Students will also participate in one day of in-park environmental education. They will camp in tents during their stay.
“It is very exciting that SCA’s Alternative Spring Break is returning to the Grand Canyon,” says Deputy Superintendent Palma Wilson. “The students accomplished so much during the last two spring breaks. I especially appreciate the contributions that SCA makes towards the preservation of parks as I am one of many National Park Service professionals who got their start as an SCA intern.”
The Student Conservation Association is a nationwide conservation force of college and high school students who protect and restore America's parks, forests, refuges, seashores and communities. For more than 50 years, SCA’s active, hands-on practice of conservation service has helped to build new generations of conservation leaders, inspire lifelong stewardship, and save the planet. The nonprofit SCA is headquartered in Charlestown, NH, with regional offices in Boise, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Washington D.C. For further information, visit http://www.thesca.org .
Students participating in SCA’s Alternative Spring Break at Grand Canyon National Park represent dozens of majors and institutions, including:
Major -- College or University
Biology -- University of Alabama-Huntsville
Business Administration -- University of Arizona
Civil Engineering -- Brevard Community College
Conservation -- Colorado State University
Earth Science Ecology -- Kent State University
Economics -- University of Louisville
Engineering -- Massasoit Community College
Environmental Studies -- Middlesex Community College
Forestry -- Montana State University
Geology -- University of New Hampshire
History -- University of Rhode Island
Natural Resources -- Smith College SUNY-Geneseo
Philosophy -- Texas A&M University
Wildlife Management -- Vassar College Weber State University
Zoology -- Yale University
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