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Profile: Board of Directors President Jenny Carey

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If ever there was someone who epitomizes RMYC’s focus on community and hard work it’s Jenny Carey, a RMYC alumni who’s worked as both a crew member and leader, and now an RMYC board member since 2021. Now working as the City of Steamboat’s Open Space and Trails Supervisor, a position she’s held since 2017, she still finds the time to spearhead RMYC’s local youth program and do what she can to help the organization that has been such a huge part of her life. And lest you think she’s getting callous to field work with her “desk” job, she still loves getting out with local trail crews whenever she can.

Carey joined RMYC in 2005 during a college summer at Michigan State University. She did so for three straight summers, building portions of the Continental Divide Trail throughout Colorado and Wyoming, and found the sessions so life changing that she’s managed to turn trails into a career. After her tenure with RMYC she spent three seasons with a trail crew for Bridger Teton National Forest out of Pinedale, Wyo., before returning to Steamboat in 2010 to become RMYC’s program director managing recruitment and hiring for the Conservation Corps program. She held that position for seven years before joining the city to continue her career helping keep trails an important part of people’s lives. We caught up with her for her take on all things trails, RMYC, and the importance of getting outside. 

RMYC: What do you love about RMYC?

Carey: There are conservation corps’ across the country doing amazing and important work, but RMYC continues to stand out with its 24/7 model that involves crews living and working together for the three-month duration of the program. During my time on crews and as a staff member, I saw and experienced so many friendships formed and life lessons learned through overcoming challenges together. After 30-plus years since the very first season led by the amazing Gretchen Van De Carr, RMYC continues to be a unique and life changing experience for so many young people. The core and heart of what RMYC is about hasn’t changed. 

 

RMYC: What do you like about serving on the board?

Carey: Serving on the RMYC board has offered a way for me to stay involved with an organization that means so much to me. I cherish my friendships with previous co-workers and getting to spend time at RMYC is always something I look forward to. I hope I can bring a unique perspective to the board having been both an RMYC participant and staff member in the past, and love being able to work with such a diverse and hardworking group of people to help steer the organization. 

 

RMYC: What did you learn and like from being a crew member?

Carey: I didn’t realize it at the time, but I learned a lot about resiliency through during my seasons at RMYC. Encountering all kind of new challenges like lightning storms at 12,000 feet or changing a van tire in the middle of nowhere Wyoming. You learn a lot about how to handle stressful situations and how to troubleshoot without immediately looking to the internet for an answer. I’m originally from the Midwest and coming to RMYC was my first experience camping outside of a state park for more than a few days at a time. I fully embraced it all. Building trails in some incredible places while living out of a tent opened a whole new world to me. It’s so much more than just a job and I have nothing but amazing memories from my seasons with RMYC.

 

RMYC: How good are RMYC’s trail crews?

Carey: RMYC crews are helping to fill the gaps that land management agencies are struggling with as they navigate issues like tighter budgets and hiring difficulties. Specialty crews completing priority wildfire mitigation projects (chainsaw crews) along with crews doing complex rock work in high elevations across the state are examples of the hard and important work that crews are getting done each season. RMYC crews fill a huge need across our public lands and contribute to the health and preservation of our natural landscapes.

 

RMYC: Why is it important for kids to work outside?

Carey: We can all gain a lot from living and working outside. By overcoming challenges and making tangible contributions to the environment, young people can develop a deeper connection to nature and a broader sense of stewardship for the natural world. Through teamwork and collaboration, they can also leave the program with improved communication, resiliency, and technical skills. Whether it’s cooking for 10 people or building a water diversion structure on a trail, a lot of kids leave the program with brand new skills they had never tried before.

 

RMYC: How different is it managing trails for the city than it was working on them at RMYC?

Carey: At RMYC, the trail projects span so much of Colorado and Wyoming—the reach of their crews is incredible. It’s a lot to keep track of and RMYC has a hardworking and dedicated staff that handle an incredible amount of logistics each season. At the city, the biggest difference is that we are obviously more localized and focused on a smaller geographic area, but the trail work standards are the same and we also rely on community partnerships and collaboration to get things done. 

 

RMYC: How unique and important is RMYC’s partnership with the city?

Carey: We love connecting kids to their local trails and open spaces when they come and work for a week with the city. Regardless of their previous experiences on trails, they all have something to learn and share during a week or two on their crew and hopefully they leave with some new knowledge and skills and have some fun. We have a great time working with them every year and they help us out getting a lot of meaningful work done.

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