Bainbridge Island Park District’s Student Conservation Corps wraps up a bigger-than-ever season

biparks_logo-2021The Student Conservation Corps (SCoCo) is a paid Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park & Recreation District (BIMPRD) employment opportunity enhanced with conservation education for local High School age students. Through SCoCo, our young people learn about environmental concerns around the island through four program components:

  1. A series of spring Application Work Parties
  2. A paid Spring Break session
  3. Three paid summer sessions
  4. Fall volunteer restoration work parties

The program began 12 seasons ago, however Covid forced BIMPRD to cancel in 2020. It was brought back in a limited capacity in 2021, working with six teens for four weeks at Blakely Harbor Park. This year the Park District was able to restore the program to its 2019 scale.

Mayzie and Jack loading freshly trans-potted sword fern at Strawberry Hill Park, Bainbridge Island Metro Park and Recreation District - Copy“Our teen crews are an incredibly important part of the Park District’s invasive weeds management strategy,” said Morgan Houk, Program Manager at BIMPRD. “Invasive species are not your garden variety weed. They are defined in Washington State Law RCW 17.10 as ‘a plant that when established is highly destructive, competitive or difficult to control by cultural or chemical practices.’ Other terms may be used interchangeably, but our state legislature determines which species are considered ‘Noxious Weeds’ and how they are classified and managed,” she explained.

SCOCO crew loading ivy at Fay Bainbridge, Bainbridge Island Metro Park and Recreation DistrictThrough SCoCo’s efforts, they’re able to focus on Class C and Class B noxious weeds like ivy, blackberry, scotchbroom, holly and butterfly bush. Because these species are so invasive, they can destroy our forests, meadows, and shorelines by consuming light, water, and soil nutrients that our native plants thrive on. In addition, they can cause soil erosion and damage the composition and health of the soil as well as endanger the natural wildlife habitat.

This summer, the SCoCo young employees spent nine weeks across three summer sessions removing the invasive weeds in 15 different parks across the island, including Fay Bainbridge Park, Blakely Harbor Park, Moritani Preserve, and many more.

Malloree Weinheimer demonstrating an increment borer, Bainbridge Island Metro Park and Recreation District - CopyDuring lunch hours, conservation professionals provided an introduction to wilderness first aid and fire safety from Jared Moravec of the Bainbridge Island Fire Department, an inside look at forestry and arboriculture with Malloree Weinheimer from Chickadee Forestry, and life on a research vessel with NOAA scientist Meredith Everett, conducted via Zoom from the Johnson Atoll southwest of Hawaii.

Thanks to additional support from the Bainbridge Island Parks & Trails Foundation, the Bainbridge Community Foundation, and the Washington State SEEK Fund (Summer Experiences & Enrichment for Kids), this year’s program was bigger than ever.

By the numbers –

  • Employed 30 teens through four spring break and summer sessions
  • Spent more than 2,000 hours removing invasive weeds
  • Removed over 100 yards of invasive weeds, including ivy, scotch broom, holly, blackberry, butterfly bush, and more.
  • Learned from 30 lunchtime speakers working in the conservation field.

From the crew –

SCOCO crew cleaning and sharpening tools on their last day of work, Bainbridge Island Metro Park and Recreation District - Copy“I believe my work has slowly but surely impacted the environment, with more room for native species to grow.”

“The most rewarding part of SCoCo is knowing I’m helping native plants thrive.”

“I liked removing holly! It was the most rewarding because of how difficult it was.”

My favorite memory was “pulling a huge holly root out of the ground after a whole day of working.”

“My work has impacted the environment because I got to remove invasive plants from areas where the native ones will soon prosper.”

“The most rewarding part of SCoCo was seeing the areas we worked on after we left and seeing our impact on them.”

“The employment SCoCo provides to youth in our community develops a new generation of environmental stewards while making progress in the battle against noxious weeds in Bainbridge Island parks. SCoCo members work to control invasive plant species in our island’s parks and protected open spaces, methodically achieving goals outlined in the Park District’s Invasive Plant Management Plan,” said Morgan Houk.

If you’re interested in learning more about the program, BIMPRD is hosting two fall work parties for teens to come work alongside past SCoCo crew members and leaders. See below for details.

SAVE THE DATE! SCoCo Fall Work Party

Where: Moritani Preserve, 542 Winslow Way W

When: Saturday, November 5, 1:00p-3:00p and Monday, November 7, 2:30p – 4:30p

What: Help Morgan, Ian, and the rest of the Natural Resources Team with some cool-weather conservation, including planting and mulching areas previously full of invasive weeds!

For more information, please contact Program Manager Morgan Houk at

*Information and images provided by Morgan Houk, BIMPRD

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