OutDoor Oregon crew members Josiah Lozier and Haley Rogers help clear the trail at Keizer Rapids Park of English Ivy and other natural nuisances. The work took place earlier this month. A second crew is expected next month. (KEIZERTIMES/Lance Masterson)

Of the Keizertimes

Charles Goodenow won’t have to travel far to see the fruits of his physical labor.

The 19-year-old is an OutDoor Oregon crew member, and he helped clear the trail at Keizer Rapids Park of blackberries, English ivy, stinging nettle and other irritants, many of which also fall in the invasive species category.

Goodenow wasn’t alone in this effort. He was joined by nine other crew members and two crew leaders. But he was the only one from Keizer and he is very familiar with the layout of the park.

This sense of community provided him with added incentive.

“It’s really heart-warming,” he said of the effort. “My family comes here a lot with our animals, so it makes me feel good to be able to clean up the environment of the area where I’m living.”

OutDoor Oregon specializes in conservation. It is part of Northwest Youth Corps (NYC), the program that takes crews into the Pacific Northwest back country five months at a time to repair trails or do other projects.

Crew leader Rachel Lauriat came to OutDoor Oregon from NYC.

“This is a newer program; it’s more of an urban conversation program,” said Lauriat. “Most of my experience is leading crews in the back country of Washington, Idaho, Oregon and northern California … doing more back country living and more back country projects.”

She noticed working closer to home has its advantages.

“What has drawn me to OutDoor Oregon specifically is, for example, we have Charles Goodenow and he’s from Keizer. And he has just kind of taken a lead with this project because this is his park that he brings his dogs to. And what I’m really loving about this, as opposed to (Northwest) Youth Corps, is that these kids are from this community.”

A different mind-set exists when hometown pride factors into the equation.

“I’ve noticed that (crew members) are taking more time to get things done right. They’re really invested in it because it’s their backyard. I really like seeing that connection with them. It kind of touches them a little bit more,” said Lauriat.

On this particular project Goodenow was named youth crew leader for the day. He was raking up debris when approached for the interview.

“We’re cutting back the berry bushes from the trail to widen it up. While everyone clips, me and my co-worker, Whittaker (Lozier) are going around and cleaning up and brushing everything away from the trail to make it wider . And we’re removing invasive species,” he said.

Goodenow learned of Northwest Youth Corps while searching for a job online. He said the advertisement was eye-catching.

“Bam! It jumped out at me,” said Goodenow of the ad. “I read about it and I applied, and like about four months later they contacted me and told me they were doing another program and that it was five weeks. So I signed up.”

The program does more than rehabilitate. Statistics show Oregon has the third highest teen unemployment rate in the nation. But Goodenow didn’t sign up out of desperation. Instead he signed up to take advantage of what OutDoor Oregon offers.

He was intrigued by “everything they put down in the ad. Like, it said do you want to work in the environment? Do you want to learn great leadership skills? Work with others? Stuff like that,” said Goodenow. “It just jumped out and said ‘pick me.’”.

He added he hopes to parlay experience gained this year into a job with Northwest Youth Corps next year.

OutDoor Oregon hires youth crews for summer work in four different counties, including Marion.

Local projects are coordinated through the City of Keizer.

OutDoor Oregon crews performed conservation work at Claggett Creek Park earlier this summer and return to Keizer Rapids Park next month.

Youths hired are between the ages of 16 and 19. They work five days a week, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.