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Youthworks and the Santa Fe River

Improving Lives, Our Landscape, and Our Community 

The ¡YouthWorks! Santa Fe Youth Conservation Corps completed cleaning up and helping restore the Santa Fe River.  Through their work, ¡YouthWorks! helps young people to not only learn to respect and protect the environment in which they live, but also to develop job skills that will help them succeed in the future.The success of this project on all levels demonstrates the commitment Santa Fe has to its youth.

Photo of Youthworks Santa Fe River crew with Mayor Coss and Councilor Chavez

Methods

¡YouthWorks! worked closely with the City’s Parks, Trails and Watershed Division, the Streets and Drainage Division and Storm Water Management, along with the guidance of consultant Gilbert Borrego of Hytech Riparian and Range Management. They used natural, bioengineered erosion-control methods with lava rock boulders and tree branches. While previous work has extensively used nonporous, obtrusive materials such as cement, these structures blend with the river environment to slow stormwater runoff and benefit the Santa Fe River by reducing pollution and further erosive damage to the main river corridor. The result is work that is structurally sound, pleasing to the eye, and long-lasting.

Youth As Workers

Employing youth on the river was intentional. The Santa Fe River and its longtime state of neglect were symbolic of the disconnect of Santa Fe’s youth from their community. Who better than the youth themselves to return the river to health while becoming invested in its stewardship?

¡YouthWorks! operates a paid, youth-employment-training program that offers “disconnected” youth the opportunity to learn responsible work habits, earn a living wage and a regular paycheck, attend on-site GED coursework and “reconnect” to their community. Since 2001, the nonprofit has employed and trained hundreds of youth and young adults in the care and restoration of the Santa Fe River.

Progress

¡YouthWorks! Santa Fe Youth Conservation Corps removed over 30 Hefty bags of trash from the main river corridor, removed graffiti, promoted water infiltration and growth of native plant species by trimming or removing invasive tree saplings and greenery and, with professional consultation, have implemented 30 percent of the erosion-control measures needed to begin to restore a stabilized river corridor that supports natural flows.

¡YouthWorks! has proven to be an exceptional model of the type of investment this community can make in our young people and an example of the contribution young people are eager to make in our community.

The successful work on the Santa Fe River is an example of what Santa Fe’s youth can do and how committed they can be when given the right tools, support, and opportunity.

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