Student Conservation Association

Chatting with Margot about the SCA

By JoAnne Fuerst, Historian Chair, Bar Harbor Garden Club

Recently Margot Haertel shared some memories of the Student Conservation Association (SCA), a life-long affiliation which she clearly cherishes.

Margot is still in touch with the group’s founder. In the late 1950s in Washington state, Elizabeth “Liz” Putnam and two college friends had an idea. They wanted to share their enthusiasm for America’s National Parks and encourage teenage participation as outdoors volunteers. While the young folks were grooming trails and the like, the next generation of conservationists was likewise being groomed. For some of the youth it was their first “connection” with the environment, while for others, like Margot, it was a natural evolution. She was a National Park Service “brat”.

Originally the SCA was conceived as a program for high school boys and girls, but soon it was expanded to include college students. Originally it primarily involved Western parks, and now it is nationwide. While younger people did more “physical” chores, the older students oversaw campgrounds, ran gift shops, or did field work. Margot recalls joining SCA in the early 1960s as one of the first college participants. One of her fondest experiences was a Golden Eagle survey done at over 10,000 feet at Cedar Breaks, Utah. Challenging in the pre-electronic era, for sure.

When she joined the Bar Harbor Garden Club (BHGC) and became ‘Youth Activities’ Chair, Margot sought to enhance our existing elementary school programs by involving older students. Naturally, SCA came to the fore. SCA was the harbinger of the current movement to “leave no child inside”. Margot recalls that BHGC member Mary Krevans’ son was one of the first scholarship recipients.

The BHGC gives an annual $1,000 donation to the Student Conservation Association to support interns in Acadia National Park.

Another engaged young person is Abigail Danner, who spoke briefly at our September club meeting at Garland Farm. She attends Monmouth College (Illinois) where she was President of the college garden club, and worked at the school’s garden and farm. She is particularly interested in environmental conservation, and is a specialist in peregrine falcons and hawks. She did work with the spotted owl in Northern California, and was a raptor interpreter at the Precipice in Acadia this year. She is a prime example of our humble program’s satisfying outcomes.

Today when the Haertels visit Parks around the country, Margot is still thrilled to spot a SCA patch on some young person’s shirt or cap. They, likewise, are excited to meet one of the “elders” of the Association. A college girl’s dream became a win/win for young folks, our Park system, the environment, and conservation ethos. Margot, and the BHGC, continue to further those goals.

The Bar Harbor Garden Club is a member of the Garden Club Federation of Maine, New England Garden Clubs, Inc. and National Garden Clubs, Inc. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF THE BAR HARBOR GARDEN CLUB.

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