National park awarded Student Conservation Association medal

PORT ANGELES — The Student Conservation Association has awarded Olympic National Park its Founder’s Medal.

The park is one of the original partners of the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and the only park to provide young SCA stewards with service opportunities in each of the past 60 years, said Penny Wagner, interim spokeswoman for the park.

Margie Brown, chairwoman of the SCA board, presented the medal to park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum at park headquarters in Port Angeles on Aug. 12.

The program also included remarks from SCA Founding President Liz Putnam, whose name and likeness adorn the Founder’s Medal.

The award recognizes exemplary efforts in advancing the engagement of youths and young adults in hands-on service to the land. Putnam is widely recognized as the Mother of the American Youth Conservation Movement, according to SCA.

The presentation coincided with SCA’s 60th anniversary.

Putnam introduced the proposal for a student conservation corps in her 1955 senior thesis at Vassar College.

Two years later, in 1957, with the aid of fellow Vassar alumna Martha Hayne (Talbot), the first 53 SCA volunteers reported for duty at Olympic and Grand Teton national parks, and SCA members have served at Olympic every year since.

“Since the very beginning, SCA has been about partnerships, teamwork and banding together to achieve something greater than yourself,” Putnam said.

“Service to nature and empowering youth are among our most noble callings, and that’s why it’s so rewarding to return to Olympic National Park and honor such a deserving medal recipient.”

SCA alumni who served at the park during the organization’s earliest years were in attendance for the ceremony.

“Many National Park Service employees today are alumni of the SCA,” said acting Superintendent Lee Taylor.

“The service of SCA volunteers across the country leaves a lasting impact on public lands and is often a stepping stone to a career in conservation.”

The event also included the premiere of a new documentary, “National Park Diaries,” which spotlights the work of SCA volunteers in parks from coast to coast.

More information on the documentary can be found at www.thesca.org/connect/blog/national-park-diaries.