A brand-new bridge built in Riverview Park. A flooded trail rehabilitated in McKinley Park. A thickly forested slope transformed into a hiking trail connecting a middle school campus to the Seldom Seen Greenway: There’s no question that the Pittsburgh Young Adult BIPOC Roving Crew of the Student Conservation Association (SCA) made its mark on the parks and trails of the Steel City. But the SCA is betting that the months last fall spent swinging trail-building tools and clearing overgrowth made just as deep of a mark on the crew itself.
“It’s not like other work,” says 21-year-old Jewharu Williams, one of the five 2021 crew members. “It’s very impactful on the land. Conservation is one of my big things, and [SCA] put that into perspective for me. I knew I wanted to help the planet in some way, but I didn’t know what that was called. I’ve really enjoyed it.”
The Pittsburgh team, made up of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, is one of the SCA’s Urban Green Crews. Rather than working on conservation projects in far-flung national parks or forests, these teams focus on the close-to-home parks that provide so many people with a vital connection to nature. All five members of the Pittsburgh crew live in the city.
“One of the reasons why it’s important for our youth to work in urban areas is so they can learn about the opportunities to experience nature within their communities and neighborhoods,” says Kelly Runzel, Senior Director of Corporate and Community Engagement for SCA. “And we feel that there’s a future in it for our youth. They can receive good-paying green jobs within their local communities and become leaders in solving some of the environmental justice and conservation problems in their neighborhoods.”