"The practice of conservation must spring from a conviction of what is ethically and aesthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right only when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the community; and the community includes the soil, waters, fauna, and flora, as well as people."-Aldo Leopold

The Grinnell Youth Conservation Corps (GYCC) is composed of a crew of Grinnell High School students that works on conservation projects in Grinnell's parks, with focus on Arbor Lake Park, for 8 weeks during the summer. The crew is led by a Grinnell College student who coordinates program projects and educational opportunities in addition to working alongside the crew.  The GYCC aims to involve local youth in the parks of Grinnell through environmental conservation and education.

Program History and Objectives


Detailed planning for the Grinnell YCC began by Kendra Engels '06 through a Grinnell College environmental education internship in the summer of 2005. Kendra researched, interviewed, and developed an extensive proposal for implementing and funding the program. A summary of the proposal was shared with the City of Grinnell, Park Board, and several nonprofit conservation-oriented organizations in Grinnell that summer and fall. The City of Grinnell approved funding for the program's inaugural year in 2006 and the program was funded again in 2007 and 2008. After a year off in 2009, the GYCC program is up and running again this summer. Grinnell College provides planning and funding support for the YCC coordinator through the Career Development Office and Center for Prairie Studies. The City of Grinnell provides wages for the Grinnell High School student crew members.


  1. Involve local youth in the city parks to improve the parks and green spaces, taking care of needs identified by park and city officials and community members
  2. Provide assistance on already in-place projects like bike trail development and water quality monitoring
  3. Increase the visibility and public awareness of ongoing projects, park needs, and environmental issues in the Grinnell area
  4. Approach projects which are beyond what regular city employees have the time and/or means to approach
  5. Provide a constructive, educational summer employment opportunity, teaching local youth the value of action and what they can accomplish
  6. Educate local youth about environmental concerns in Grinnell and provide them with ways of addressing those concerns, the knowledge of which can be spread throughout the community through friends and family
  7. Allow for possible expansion of the program to include more advanced projects, a larger time commitment, and work in more of the parks
  8. Enhance participants’ involvement in the community, their feeling of belonging as a productive member of the community, and their sense of ownership of the work they have done
  9. Through first-hand experience, provide an avenue into the fields of environmentalism and conservation


Recent Projects

2010: 2010 GYCC project map

  •  Clearing the jetties to increase access to water for fishing
  • Control of woody invasive species along the lake shoreline
  • Removal of woody invasive species and replacing with native seeds in western area of park
  • Water quality monitoring and aquatic invertebrate sampling
  • Weeding Hobo Creek Shoreline, 3rd Ave. railroad prairie, Hudson Prairie, and Arbor Lake shoreline
  • Planting of a rain garden at Jaycee Park
  • Removal of garbage throughout the park
  • GPS mapping of ant mounds
  • Assisting the Parks and Rec department with 3 weeks of Nature in the Parks camps

Past Project Maps




Community Involvement

Here is a list of things you can do to help keep Arbor Lake clean and healthy:

  • Volunteer Opportunities
    --YCC crew Community Days 
    --Participate in water quality monitoring through IOWAter
  • Don’t litter! Garbage, toys, and other objects can get washed into the street and the storm sewer system
  • When visiting the park, pick up after yourself and your pets – Arbor Lake has multiple trash cans and doggy waste stations to assist you in keeping litter out of the creek, wetlands, lake, and rest of the park
  • Do not bathe, shampoo, or wash your pets in the lake
  • Plant your own rain garden to control water runoff into storm sewers
  • If you must use lawn fertilizers, switch to lake-friendly fertilizers with little or no phosphorous
  • Don’t blow your leaves or grass clippings into the storm sewer system – this adds excess nutrients to the lake causing eutrophication and algal blooms, making life harder for plants and animals in the lake
  • Write to your local Congressmen about water runoff regulations

The GYCC is proud to be assisting the City of Grinnell in cleaning up the park, but maintaining its beauty and health will require help from the community at large. Remember, small actions on the part of many can make a big difference!

Other conservation sites and places of interest in the Grinnell area:

Arbor Lake Information

Arbor Lake Park currently features a large reservable park shelter with restrooms, several grills and fire rings, drinking water, trash receptacles and pet waste stations, two paved parking lots, gravel and mown grass trails, aquatic environments including creeks, wetlands, and a 14-acre lake perfect for fishing, canoeing, or wading and accessible by a small boat launch, native prairie plantings, native tree diversity and high-quality bird habitat, a rain garden, educational signs, play equipment and an obstacle course. Click here to view the Arbor Lake Map.

In August, 2007, a Master Parks Improvement Plan was prepared “to serve as a policy document that will assist the City of Grinnell in its efforts to ensure that current and future Grinnell residents have the opportunity to participate in an acceptable range of park and recreation activities in a safe, convenient, and aesthetically pleasing environment.” The plan includes an assessment of the current parks in Grinnell, addresses future park needs based on community input, develops a policy and plan for implementing desired changes, and includes a master plan for each of Grinnell parks.

Highlights from the 2007 Master Parks Improvement Plan pertaining to Arbor Lake Park include:

  • At just over 80 acres, Arbor Lake Park is Grinnell’s only park under the “natural resource area” category.
  • The Arbor Lake watershed is 1,069 acres in the City of Grinnell and Grant Township. The Arbor Lake Watershed Visioning Plan began in 2000 with the help of several partners. Accomplishments include: 
    --Hazel and Wood creek riffle pools were installed and banks were seeded with native forbs/grasses.
    --Retention ponds, storm water interceptors, and a rain garden were installed.
    --Flow from Hobo Creek was slowed with gravel baffle-dam.
    --Invasive species were replaced with natives in constructed watershed improvement areas.
    --The biggest goal is to reduce/divert phosphorous-elevated water entering lake.
  • According to community and telephone surveys, Arbor Lake Park is one of the city’s most widely visited public parks.
  • The first priority from both community and telephone surveys is to improve and update existing parks, rather than acquiring new park areas.
  • At a community planning meeting, Arbor Lake Park was recognized with the highest need for allocation of money and facilities and showed the need to maintain Arbor Lake as a natural area in Grinnell. There was much support for the construction of bikeways/walkways between Arbor Lake Park and the rest of the city to encourage park usage.
  • Proposed improvements in the Arbor Lake Master Plan include installing a multi-use trail to Thomazin Park, installing an additional parking lot at the north end of the park, updating play equipment, updating existing restrooms/shelter and the addition of a new one on the dam, providing a means of renting canoes or paddleboats, and the creation and maintenance of prairie, riparian, and savanna habitats in southern and western parts of park.
  • Several proposed greenways and green streets will connect to Arbor Lake Park in the future.

The GYCC is pleased to help with the ongoing projects aimed at improving the quality of Arbor Lake and its surrounding natural areas in an attempt to increase park usage and restore Arbor Lake Park to its former state as a coveted recreation area enjoyed by everyone.


GYCC would like to thank...

Imagine Grinnell provides grant and planning support.

The Center for Prairie Studies at Grinnell College sponsors the position of the Grinnell College student coordinator.

The City of Grinnell employs the high school student workers and provides tactical assistance for the crew throughout the summer.