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Governor praises young workers at O'Bannon Woods

Program benefit to youths, state parks, highway departments

September 01, 2010
Members of the Young Hoosiers Conservation Corps, who have spent the summer building a riding arena and livestock pen at O'Bannon Woods State Park, were visited by the governor of Indiana last week.

Gov. Mitch Daniels talks with members of the Young Hoosiers Conservation Corps at O’Bannon Woods State Park west of Corydon last week. The YHCC program, funded by federal stimulus funds, gave summer jobs to young adults who worked at state parks, highway departments and other state natural resource sites. Photo by Lee Cable
The group of young adults, between the ages of 18 and 24, is part of the YHCC program that has employed about 4,000 young people during the last two summers. Some of that group worked both summers at O'Bannon Woods west of Corydon clearing and building trails, mowing and assisting with general maintenance. And this summer, they took on the responsibility of designing and building the riding arena near the campground for horse riders.

Gov. Mitch Daniels showed up at the arena site last Tuesday as the young workers completed the last stages of construction on the project.

"Just think about what you've done here and take it times 200, and you can get a picture of how much has been done with this program across the state," Daniels told the group. "All of these things will be here for a long time."

The YHCC program, funded by federal stimulus money, provided funding to pay young Hoosiers $8 an hour at highway departments and parks across the state.

Daniels said the funds for the program will run out this year, but the state may consider furnishing money for the program again next year.

"We feel the results of the program have been really strong," Daniels said. "There have been thousands of miles of trails, thousands of acres of habitat that have been restored by these young people and permanent structures like these have been built around the state. We got very good value."

Daniels sat at a picnic table under a shelter house near the work site and talked to the young workers who built the arena.

"If you had the chance to do this all over again, would you do it?" Daniels asked the group of a dozen or so workers.

All the workers responded that they would.

"I hope you'll feel a lot of pride in what you'll be leaving behind here," the governor told them.

He went on to ask them what they had planned, now that the YHCC program was ending. One said he was going to be looking for a job, another said he planned to be an electrician and some talked about joining a carpenters union in order to get good jobs in the construction business. And one has decided to pursue a career with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

"I really hope I can get a full-time job with DNR," Rollin Harper of Harrison County said. "Oct. 23 is the last day on this job, and I really like it down here. I know they have great benefits, and it's something that's always appealed to me. So, I'm going to apply and hope I can get on."

Park manager Bob Sawtelle, who goes by the name of Ranger Bob, said the group planned the project itself and completed the job efficiently.

"I just brought them a pile of logs and told them to build it," Sawtelle said. "They designed it, planned it all out and went to work. They even added a ramp for the disabled. They've done an excellent job on this project."

Justin Lynton of Corydon worked as a team leader of the group for the last two summers.

"This project turned out well," he said. "We just gave them a general idea of what was needed, and they did all the work. I think we've all learned a lot from this program."

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