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Youth corps turns 10

Organization offers many opportunities

Doug Crowl

— In 10 years, the local chapter of Rocky Mountain Youth Corps’ budget went from $3,000 to top $1 million. But who’s counting?

At its 10-year anniversary party Friday at the Carpenter Ranch near Hayden, most people just talked about the opportunities and life experiences young people have had through the program and the miles of trails built and improved.

“The success of Rocky Mountain Youth Corps is due to many, many people,” director and founder Gretchen Van De Carr said. “I have great people surrounding me.”

While working with the city of Steamboat Springs 10 years ago, Van De Carr asked parks and recreation officials if she could use the $3,000 that goes to youth summer activities and spend it to involve the children in the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps instead.

That meant contracting with public land management agencies to build and improve hiking trails, many in the most remote areas of the Rocky Mountains, and taking the 24 teen-agers who signed up for the program on a four-week hiking and camping trip to do the work.

Since then, 744 youths, ages 16 to 25, have had employment and gained life experiences through the youth corps. They’ve handmade 57 miles of trails and improved 110.5 miles of existing trails.

“We are pretty lucky to have such a wonderful organization so close to us,” Hahn’s Peak/Bears Ears District Ranger Kim Vogel said in a speech at the celebration.

Many of the trails the crews work on are in the Routt National Forest.

Along with trail work, the youth corps has evolved to develop educational programs in the local schools, including the Yampa Valley Science School for 200 Routt County sixth-graders and a healthy lifestyles school-based mentoring program that serves 50 local sixth-graders.

“It’s just amazing what the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps has done,” said state Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs.

Though she passed off the success of the program to her colleagues, most looked at Van De Carr as the driving force behind its growth.

“You can’t say enough about the support she has given,” Mike Whitcomb said.

Whitcomb’s 23-year-old daughter, Lynn, has been employed with the program for three years. He drove from Littleton to the celebration Friday.

“I really can see what it has done for my daughter,” he said.

Whitcomb said he watched his daughter become an adult through the program.

“I’m proud of the organization and I’m proud of the people,” he said.

Lynn Whitcomb addressed the audience at the celebration, explaining that the program has allowed her to develop and meet goals in her life.

“One thing about the Youth Corp. is that it’s always changing,” she said.

New programs and opportunities emerge for those who are committed to the program, she said.

For the most part, many young people enjoy the program because of the family-like atmosphere it presents, both father and daughter said.

That was evident at the Carpenter Ranch on Friday. With Shenanigans Celtic bluegrass band playing music, an old-time pig roast and a keg of root beer, the atmosphere proved to be one that made you feel at home.


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