COLUMBIA — Now hiring: Missouri state parks.
Gov. Jay Nixon reiterated his support today for the State Parks Youth Corps, a program established in 2010 that hires 17- to 23-year-olds to work maintaining trails, painting buildings and assisting in guided tours at Missouri's 87 state parks.
Standing beside a babbling creek in the shadow of Connor's Cave at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, Nixon addressed a small gaggle of reporters along with state and city officials and members of Central Missouri Community Action who help find work for those who need it.
"Our parks are jewels to be enjoyed today and preserved for future generations," Nixon said. "Our city, county and state trails are the best place to hike in America."
Steph Reed, Missouri State Parks spokeswoman, said Finger Lakes State Park would have eight positions to fill and Rock Bridge Memorial State Park would have 12 positions, including six workers for the Katy Trail. Statewide there are 450 available positions.
The jobs will fill a variety of roles ranging from maintenance of playgrounds, campsites, bulletin boards and shelter houses to communications through print, electronic and social media. Workers also will be able to assist and conduct interpretive tours in coordination with local staff.
Applications for the program now are being accepted online at thinkoutside.mo.gov. The jobs pay $7.35 per hour, and participants can work up to 300 hours between May 1 and Oct. 31. Eligible applicants also must meet family income requirements; in Boone County the ceiling is $52,800 for a family of four.
Nixon said the program has economic benefits for both individuals and communities. He compared it to the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s that built many structures in state and national parks across the country.
"These young people are learning skills and enjoying gainful employment," he said. "We are also developing a new generation that will understand the importance of preserving the parks."
The program is a partnership between the Division of Workforce Development and Missouri State Parks that works through 14 local partners affiliated with the state's network of regional workforce and investment boards.
Central Missouri Community Action has recruited applicants from Columbia in past years and recently received the go-ahead to start recruiting for this summer as well.
"If you are interested in working in parks or outdoors, it is a great opportunity," Heather Burton, who works at the Missouri Career Center, said. "It's hard work but rewarding, and the parks staff is welcoming and easy to get along with."
Officials from the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department attended the event and expressed a desire to establish a similar program for the city's parks.
"I strongly support this program for state parks and hope down the road it might expand to local parks," Parks and Recreation Director Mike Griggs said, adding that the city has had a similar program in the past. "I would love to do something similar. It's just a matter of funding."
In 2010, thanks to federal funding that is no longer available, the state program employed more than 1,000 young people.
"We've had to look for different sources of funding. How ever much money is available is how many workers we will hire," said Traci Robertson of the Division of Workplace Development.
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