Chimney Swift Tower constructed by the Youth Conservation Corps
The Conservation Corps Minnesota engages young people in civic and conservation service and provides both educational activities and hands-on outdoor experiences. Our youth and young adult programs emphasize teamwork, personal development and service to the community.
The Conservation Corps Minnesota’s newest program, Youth Outdoors, is an after-school service-learning initiative for high school students, age 15-18, that focuses on environmental stewardship, training and education for natural resource, green-collar and other related jobs.
Last spring, 24 youth and 8 leaders were involved with hands-on restoration and education. All youth involved were at or below 80% of the Saint Paul median household income level, from typically underrepresented populations and were 15-18 years old. The crew leaders were young adults who were completing a full year of AmeriCorps service through Conservation Corps Minnesota. The majority of projects were completed within the City of Saint Paul.
In the fall of 2009, the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and St. Paul Parks and Recreation worked together to build wood duck nest boxes. The crews then worked to locate, maintain and inventory duck houses on park property. Youth learned about habitat, food sources and dangers related to ducks. Youth also learned to use GPS/GIS technology to map the locations of the houses. The youth learned a lot through completing these activities and had fun in the process. After completing this project in the fall, the Conservation Corps and St. Paul Parks and Recreation wanted to continue the project and enrich it in some way. The perfect opportunity arose when the Audubon Society said they wanted to focus on chimney swift conservation and education. The Audubon Society and Ron Windingstad then stepped forward with the opportunity for funding and education to support the effort. The Conservation Corps applied and was approved to purchase supplies and build the chimney.
St. Paul Parks and Recreation – Environmental Services Division, Ron Windingstad, and the Youth Outdoors crews’ gathered at the Phalen recreation center. As part of an informative talk on chimney swift history and behavior, Ron brought in a mock up of the tower, a real chimney swift nest and a PowerPoint with footage of chimney swifts going into a tower to roost. After becoming educated about chimney swifts the youth began constructing the tower. Many of the youth learned new carpentry skills, such as how to safely use a drill and hammer and make accurate measurements. After construction was complete the tower was erected at Henry Park in St. Paul.
This project has a lasting impact for the chimney swift population, St. Paul and the Youth Outdoors crews. The chimney swifts now have another roosting and nesting site and St. Paul will now be more attractive and suitable for wildlife viewing and increasing the diversity of urban wildlife. The Youth Outdoors crews will have the pleasure of continually monitoring the chimney swift tower and watching their hard work increase the chimney swift population. The youth that constructed the tower will be able to go back for years and revisit the tower they produced. Best of all, the knowledge the youth gained will live on and be shared with friends, family and others.
Thanks to the financial support of the Audubon Society and the knowledge and time shared by Ron Windingstad, this project was not only possible, but also fun and educational. We look forward to continuing this wonderful relationship, continuing to educate St. Paul’s youth and providing more habitat for Minnesota bird populations.