40 Years and Counting
Discovering careers at Natural Resources Camp
By Lynne Marquess
Most high school students seldom have idea of what they want to be when they grow up. Some take the time to investigate a variety of careers until they find the one that fits. To give young people an opportunity to explore what we now call green jobs, the Maryland Association of Forest Conservancy District Boards in cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forest Service started a summer career pathways program. For 40 years, the program has introduced students to forestry and natural resources in an outdoor setting, with an emphasis on hands-on field experience.
Originally dubbed the Forestry Boys Camp, it was held at Catoctin Mountain Park in Frederick County and only available to boys. For several years, interested and qualified girls who sought to escape the confinement of the indoors were turned away and forced to look elsewhere for a similar outdoor educational experience.
Whatís in a name?
As the program evolved, the campís participants, name and location changed. The Forestry Boys Camp was renamed the Maryland Forestry Board Conservation Workshop and opened to girls. As a result, the male-dominated Maryland Forestry Boards and DNR Forest Service needed to find female counselors for the new co-educational camp.
The campís location migrated back and forth between Frederick, Garrett and Carroll Counties before permanently settling at Hickory Environmental Education Center in Garrett County.
In 2004, the Association of Forestry Boards, then under the leadership of highly respected State forestry-volunteer Mel Noland, assumed the responsibility for managing the camp. An Education Committee was formed of mainly forestry board members whose task it became to plan, organize and promote the program.
Noland encouraged the Stateís 24 forestry boards to help fundraise, advertise, recruit and interview student candidates, for what is now known as the Natural Resources Career Camp (NRCC).
Over the years, the campís partnerships have expanded. DNR continues its strong support by supplying knowledgable Forestry, Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks instructors. Contributing educators also include professionals from the Maryland Department of the Environment, Bartlett Tree Experts, the Davey Tree Expert Company, Master Gardeners, PEPCO, Maryland Forests Association, New Page Corporation and private forest consultants.
Allegany College is a key sponsor of the program, providing skilled staff and curricula as well as an opportunity for participants to earn college credit. The Maryland Forestry Boards Foundation ó the associationís non-profit financial arm ó manages the budget and fundraising. High school students from surrounding states are now allowed to participate.
Annual financial donors include Bartlett Tree Experts, the Davey Tree Expert Company, Glatfelter Pulpwood Company, the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture and the Maryland Forestry Boards. NRCC has also received grants from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Tree Research & Education Endowment Fund.
Connecting with experts
Gabrielle Oldham began as a volunteer camp counselor in 1976. She served as NRCC director in the mid-1990s and is now chair of the Cecil County Forestry Board. Her grandfather, Joseph Russell Grant, was one of programís founders.
Professor Steve Resh, the current NRCC curriculum director, is known for engaging his young audience with his expertise, humor and easygoing personality. Resh recruits his finest second year forestry students to serve as team leaders at the camp.
The curriculum includes forestry and wildlife management, stream ecology and watersheds, soils, wildfire suppression, GPS/GIS technology, data sampling techniques, tree identification, planting and pruning, tree climbing, urban forestry, power line maintenance, chain saw safety and more. The student-to-team-leader ratio helps campers gain comprehensive knowledge of forest management plans in a short time.
Participants make valuable connections with professionals in the field and college professors who serve as speakers, instructors and panel experts. Furthermore, each day students interact with peers that share a common interest in the environment and the outdoors.
On College Night, participants are captivated by professors and department chairs from schools with natural resource programs: Pennsylvania State University, the University of Maryland, Virginia Tech University, West Virginia University, Frostburg University, Garrett College and Allegany College.
At the end of the week, each team presents an extensive forest management plan based on landownersí specific objectives to Professor Resh, staff, family and friends. Team members must also answer questions about their plans. Certificates of achievement and special awards are given at the final ceremony.
Past participants include a 1984 graduate now working for the Natural Resources Police and his son, a 2008 graduate studying Wildlife, Fisheries and Forestry. Three brothers in one Somerset County family attended the camp in three different years, with the last one graduating in 2010. It is especially rewarding to witness an enthusiastic student attend camp one year, return as a junior counselor or team leader, and then become a passionate instructor.
Applications for 2012 are available at marylandforestryboards.org. The tuition cost of $400 is often subsidized by local forestry boards. Families usually pay only the $100 activity fee. The camp is held July 22-28 at Hickory Environmental Education Center. Interested high school students are encouraged to apply now!
Lynne Marquess is a volunteer with the Frederick County Forestry Board, the state Association Education Committee and an NRCC Staff Assistant.