Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio visited the Natural Resources Career Camp at Hickory Environmental Education Center last week.
“Thank you for hosting us today,” she told Mike Minnick, Garrett County Forestry Board chairman, on Thursday. “This is great.”
Also in attendance were state Sen. George Edwards, Del. Wendell Beitzel and Mark Widmyer, Governor’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs liaison.
Held July 21-27, the camp was sponsored by the Maryland Association of Forest Conservancy District Boards/Maryland Forestry Foundation in partnership with the Maryland Forest Service and Allegany College of Maryland.
Each year, local forestry boards across the state recruit high school students who are interested in possible careers in forestry, fisheries, wildlife and parks management to attend the camp. Those who complete the course and take an exam can earn two college credits from ACM.
“We have 13 counties represented here, which is a little bit low,” Maryland Forestry Foundation Treasurer Dawn Balinski said about the campers. “We usually get at least 14 to 15.”
Generally, half of the participants are female, she added.
Natural resource professionals provided campers with hands-on lessons and educational experiences in geographic information system mapping and Global Positioning System technology, urban forestry, wildlife habitat, fisheries and watershed ecology, which took place at the Casselman River in Grantsville.
During the secretary’s visit, Joe Bones, Garrett Dickel, Logan Fisher and others from Bartlett Tree Experts gave climbing lessons. Donning ropes, harnesses, safety glasses and helmets, students were instructed to ascend numerous feet up a tree, ring a cow bell attached to a limb and descend to the ground.
Haddaway-Riccio and Edwards also attempted the maneuver.
“George, I never met with you in a tree before,” the secretary told him.
She was able to climb several feet off the ground, but the senator struggled a bit.
“It was fun,” she said. “I really enjoyed trying it, and I can easily see why the students would like it so much, especially with the challenge of getting to the bell or getting to a certain branch.”
Representatives from Davey Tree Expert Co. demonstrated how to plant and prune trees properly.
“I’m going to show you how to do a three-point cut,” Steve Gnegy told the students.
George Mozal of Stansbury Tree Service oversaw the health care/pest management station, where campers were asked to identify unlabeled specimens.
“I put out a bunch of samples,” Mozal said. “They’re taking a little quiz. Then we’re going to talk about each one. We’re going to talk about how this pertains to integrated pest management, make decisions about the trees and how to best treat them.”
Director Gabrielle Oldham has been with the Natural Resources Career Camp for about 30 years.
“There are a lot of camps around the country, but most of them are basically recreational,” she told the secretary. “This one is focused on showing kids career opportunities.”
She noted NRCC campers do get to participate in some recreational activities, but even those are “loaded with information.”
“They’re up at 7 a.m.” Oldham said about the campers. “Lights out is at 11 p.m., but the last program ends at 10 p.m. The first program starts at 9 in the morning.”
Kelsey Meis of Cecil County was one of Oldham’s staff assistants. She attended the camp in 2017.
“You are all great stewards of your environment,” Haddaway-Ricco told the local leaders, camp staff, instructors and foundation members. “That is very clear.”