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Fuel Reduction and Trails Crew Work

How Workforce Development Programs are Increasing Benefits for Local Youth

August 18, 2023

Updated December 7, 2023

August 18, 2023

The East Bay Regional Park District is expanding and focusing its youth workforce development programs to support wildfire prevention efforts and trails maintenance work while increasing benefits for Bay Area at-risk youth and the greater community.

“We are so thankful to the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors for its increased investment in the workforce development programs. We are strengthening and building upon our past successes so that we can have a more robust effort and a larger impact in supporting local youth, including at-risk or underserved individuals,” said Park District General Manager Sabrina Landreth. “This is a very exciting time of program development and growth as we continue to better serve the public.”

Building up our programming in job training and development supports critical Park District efforts to reduce wildfire risk as well as maintain safe and enjoyable trails for our many park visitors from Alameda and Contra Costa Counties and throughout the Bay Area at the largest regional park system in the nation.

“Youth workforce development programs offer the Park District’s Fire Department one of the important tools in our toolbox for fuels reduction, especially when wildfires can endanger park visitors, wildlife, and the diverse habitats in our many parks,” said Park District Fire Chief Aileen Theile.

The Park District works with service providers, such as Civicorps, to assist local young adults, typically ages 18 to 25, who may be facing challenges in life from dropping out of school to early parenthood to not having job or career training opportunities.

“We have recruited several fuels crew employees that had training and experience from Civicorps,” said Fire Chief Theile. “This success in building our Fire Department staff to help prevent wildfires is a positive for these young people, the Park District, and our community.”

Another key component and growth area for the Park District is workforce or job development opportunities for at-risk youth in park operations on the small trails crew that helps maintain trails in our 73 parks system.

“It takes dedication to do this work and to appreciate the significance of protecting people and our lands,” said Robert Kennedy, Park District Chief of Maintenance and Skilled Trades. “We are currently building and expanding a cohesive, coordinated team for the small trails crew that undertakes important work to improve and maintain trails, remove hazards, and help reduce wildfire fuels, all in an urban forest setting.”

Kennedy highlighted the wrap-around services that Park District employees, including the small trails crew supervisor and crew leader, provide for program participants from one-on-one coaching and mentoring to assistance with resume building, how to apply for jobs online, practice interviewing for jobs, and much more to help them prepare for job placement opportunities.

The partnership with the Oakland-based nonprofit Civicorps continues to provide the Park District, including the fuels reduction team and small trails crew, with young adults who receive additional education, job training and support.

“Civicorps deeply values the steadfast partnership of EBRPD; we cannot imagine fulfilling our mission successfully without this critically important relationship. Over the last 40 years, working with EBRPD has allowed us to engage thousands of young adults in paid job training in conservation and land management. Many of these young people have gone on to thriving jobs in parks and resource management and as caretakers of our precious natural spaces. Together we are cultivating the next generation of environmental stewards,” said Tessa Nicholas, Executive Director, Civicorps.

With Civicorps’ partnership, the youth participants working with EBRPD rotate through assignments, including current ones with the small trails crew where they gain experience and provide public service in working on small trail grading, retaining walls, culvert repair, riparian zone restoration, tree clearing, fuels reduction, and split rail fencing installations.

Kennedy noted, “The youth who work with us are already trained on how to use power equipment like chainsaws. They are very motivated to be here and get the job done. It allows us to get the trails work done faster, which benefits the whole community.”

As the Park District works to meet its goals to provide youth employment programs and potential pathways for job and career opportunities, including for at-risk youth, it also seeks to maximize participation in its workforce development programs so that we can reach all of the communities we serve.

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Youth Workforce Development participants working on trail maintenance

The East Bay Regional Park District is the largest regional park system in the nation, comprising 73 parks, 55 miles of shoreline, and over 1,300 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and environmental education. The Park District receives more than 25 million visits annually throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties in the San Francisco Bay Area.