Kristin Harty Barkley
The Cumberland Times-News Thu Jul 28, 2011, 10:50 PM EDT
— ACCIDENT — Katie Garst dangled on a rope from the branch of a white oak tree, about 20 feet off the ground.
Wearing a hard hat and harness, the 16-year-old looked pretty comfortable — as though she might have a knack for urban forestry, after all.
“Good job! Holy cow!” said Peter Becker, of F.A. Bartlett Tree Co., who led a tree-climbing exercise Thursday at Hickory Environmental Center. “How high do you think you are?”
“I don’t know,” said Garst, boldly looking down.
“About maybe 20 feet or so,” said Becker. “It’s a different kind of view up there, isn’t it?”
“Wow … Yeah,” Garst said. A junior from Carroll County, she’s one of 29 high school students participating in this year’s Natural Resources Careers Conference, which has taken place annually at Hickory for more than 30 years.
Sponsored by the Maryland Association of Forest Conservancy District Boards and the Maryland Forestry Boards Foundation, it’s an opportunity for young people who think they might be interested in a career in natural resources to get a taste of what’s involved.
“We’re really interested in college-bound students,” said Gabrielle Oldham, chair of the Cecil County Forestry Board and director of the weeklong camp.
This year, students attending the camp are from Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania — with two from Allegany and one from Garrett County, Oldham said.
“Right now, environmental issues, besides the economy, that’s what everybody’s looking at,” she said. “There are jobs that can be created, and these kids are ready to fill them. You know, they don’t want to sit in an office an push papers. They want to do something outside, and they want to do something that makes a difference. And these are smart kids. They really are.”
The camp, while fun, is demanding. Students start their days at 7 a.m. and participate in learning activities until lights out at 11 p.m., with intervals of “recreation.”
Lessons include Save Our Streams, fire suppression, Scale ’n’ Tales, GPS activities, developing a forest management plan, basic tree measurement and identification and a field trip to Wood Products Inc. Sawmill in Oakland — to name a few.
“It is the greatest experience I’ve had all summer,” said Kori Roland Smith, 17, who graduated from Lighthouse Christian Academy in May.
“It is just really cool to be out with a bunch of people — my Mom’s been telling me about this career choice, but I didn’t think there were that many people into it. And come to find out, there’s tons of people around here that love to do this, that eat, sleep and breathe the outdoors.”
Like a number of campers over the years, Smith plans to start classes this fall in Allegany College of Maryland’s forestry technology program. Coordinated by Steve Resh, it was named the Outstanding CTE Program-Postsecondary by the Maryland State Department of Education this year.
ACM’s forestry programs have graduated more than 500 forestry students since 1971, the bulk of them in forest technology.
“I think the big thing is, my students get jobs,” said Resh, who has worked as curriculum coordinator for the camp since 2005, “You know, there’s a good demand for people with outdoor skills. That’s what we’re doing with a lot of high technology.”
On Thursday, Resh demonstrated chainsaw safety for students, then showed them how to use a two-man crosscut saw.
During a competition, Tanner Marquess, 16, of Cecil County, and Richard Harvey, 16, of Garrett County, set the time to beat — 11.4 seconds.
“I love to hunt, and I like to fish, and I’m always out in the woods,” said Harvey, who wants to attend Garrett College, then pursue a career as a Department of Natural Resources police officer.
“I’d rather be in the woods than in a town. There’s really nothing there in a town. You can go out and see all different kind of animals, hear stuff you never heard before,” he said.
Contact Kristin Harty Barkley at firstname.lastname@example.org
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