At Lake Murray State Park near Ardmore, a group of dedicated young adults is “breathing life” back into an historic park.
For the last several weeks, 11 team members of the AmeriCorps program have been putting in hours of sweat equity to assist the maintenance crews in shaping up park buildings, the lodge, cabins, and clearing trails, thus improving the quality of Oklahoma's first and largest state park.
All of this is part of a 10-month program where group members from different states travel to communities to devote their time and energy to projects while gaining educational and life skills.
The mission of the AmeriCorps program is to offer young adults the opportunity to serve on projects that address critical needs related to natural and other disasters, infrastructure improvements, environmental stewardship, and conservation and other such needs. In exchange for their services, Corps members receive up to $5,500 to pay for college or to pay back existing student loans.
Because Lake Murray State Park was established on the foundation of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program developed in 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, similarities in the programs made this an ideal partnership. Reminiscent of the CCC, the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps teaches people ages 18-24 skills that can be applied to outside jobs once they leave the program.
“With the assistance of the AmeriCorps members and the added support they provide, we are able to focus our employees on other areas in the park that are in need of service,” said Park Construction Maintenance Administrator Daryl Bean. “And it allows us to provide each person with invaluable training for a future in construction and environmental conservation.”
The teams spend the majority of their workdays scraping and painting the interior and exteriors of cabins, roofing, constructing boat docks, learning chainsaw operation, and conducting prescribed burns of brush and tree debris.
Although not necessarily a requirement of the task while they are here, the out-of-state workers are also learning more about history of this unique Oklahoma state park and the workmanship and pride that was instilled in those who built it.
“We have had such a great experience at Lake Murray State Park. The staff is so welcoming and proud to have us working here at the park,” Team Leader Carol Schneider said. “It's rewarding as a team to be able to come to Lake Murray and work on the structures the Civilian Conservation Corps workers constructed in the 1930's.”
Because of the hundreds of structures still standing, Lake Murray State Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With the assistance of AmeriCorps and other such youth-oriented programs we can remain hopeful in preserving our past for future generations.
To learn more about the AmeriCorps program visit the website at www.ameri
Keli Clark is marketing coordinator for Oklahoma State Parks.