May 22, 2022

Roanoke Park Conservation Corps

Roanoke Park Conservation Corps
Andrew Park DO, MPH, FAWM

During stressful times, it’s human nature to want to simplify and return to the basics. During the early COVID lockdown, I turned to the outdoors. It not only felt good to get outside in safe spaces like the city parks, but it was also good to distract my mind from the uncertainties at the time.

I started working in the parks to clean up trash and invasive plant species. There was a lot of work to do and I thought about how I could make a bigger impact. I had just closed my coffee shop two weeks prior and knew that there were a lot of restaurant service workers out of work, and, like everyone else, locked down at home. I remembered how the Civilian Conservation Corps was formed in the time of the Great Depression and how this program recruited people who were out of work, taught them practical life skills while doing tremendous foundational work in our National Parks that we still enjoy to this day. I wondered if we might do similar good work in our local park in Kansas City during this time of unprecedented crisis.

I reached out to local groups on Instagram and Facebook and found there was a lot of interest in working outdoors and people were eager to make some money. I got a group of workers together and through private donations and existing funding, our local parks conservation board was able to help pay workers $15/hr. We were 75 at our greatest number. We brought our own gloves, work tools, and garbage bags. We met on a regular basis and it became an outlet for people to interact in an outdoor space without masks and while working towards making our local parks look beautiful.

We called ourselves the Roanoke Park Conservation Corps. Although our reasons for uniting were different, our goals were similar. To this day we still meet for park cleanups and have moved on to planting new plants and trees in our parks.

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