Each summer, a handful of local youth join forces with the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge as members of the Youth Conservation Corps or YCC. Kodiak High School alumna Leila Pyle worked as a crew member in the past, but this year she took on a larger role as the crew’s leader. Pyle said YCC is actually a nationwide program that employs high school age students on public land all over the country.
Here in Kodiak, four high school students make up the team, in addition to a college-age crew leader. Pyle, who is entering her sophomore year at Reed College in Oregon, said the crew works in town and at various remote locations throughout the refuge over the the summer.
This year the crew had the opportunity to travel to Tugidak Island and participate in Kodiak Island Trails Network’s marine debris clean up.
“Tugidak is on the very, very southern end of the archipelago, like you
were saying. It’s very flat and there’s no trees on the island. It’s
just totally different than any of the landscape around town or even on
other parts of the refuge. We were there four or five days, like Eunice
said and we were picking up marine debris. There was a team of 11 people
there at the time, us and some ITN – Island Trails Network people – and
we picked up so much marine debris.”
She estimates they
picked up around 8-10,000 pounds of debris just in the few days the
crew was on the island. That experience prompted the crew to create a
marine debris display that is at the refuge visitor center downtown.
“I think that all of us took away from
Tugidak how huge of a problem marine debris is and how much it threatens
the wildlife and the fishing and the beaches of Kodiak and so we really
wanted to communicate that to the public and there’s a really great
display down there and some art projects they did for the art walk.”
The YCC crew also traveled to other remote parts of Kodiak to restore
and maintain public use cabins owned by the refuge. There are about nine
public use cabins available for rent in remote parts of the island and
the crew worked on the cabins at Fraser Lake and Little River. For most
of them, it was their first time traveling off the road system. Kyla
Villaroya will be a junior at KHS this year and said she enjoyed seeing
different parts of the island.
“I’ve never been to parts of Kodiak outside the city, well, I’ve been to
Ouzinkie once, but it was so beautiful and it made me really love the
Villaroya said the summer made her want to
pursue environmental science or education later in life and opened her
eyes to a different side of Kodiak.
You can hear the full
interview with Villaroya and Pyle, and their fellow crew members, Tuesday on KMXT’s Talk of the Rock. Tune in to KMXT 100.1 FM at
12:30 p.m. or stream us live online at kmxt.org.