Press Release Mar 14, 2014

Alternative Spring Break Brings Passionate Students to Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Students spend break working on projects for Cuyahoga Valley trail and habitat restoration

Brecksville, Ohio – This weekend, more than 30 college students from around the region will kick off their spring breaks—not by relaxing on sun-drenched beaches, but by supporting trail maintenance and habitat restoration in Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP).

From March 14-16, these students, who hail from Ohio, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and New York, will implement projects to help preserve the iconic trail system and native habitat in CVNP. In addition to the hard work of trail maintenance and planting native species, they’ll also participate in guided hikes, guest speaker presentations—and yes, campfires and other recreational activities.

This year, the Conservancy and CVNP are partnering with the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) on habitat restoration projects during Alternative Spring Break. In keeping with NPCA’s mission to protect and enhance America’s national parks for present and future generations, students at Alternative Spring Break will work to restore native ecosystems in Cuyahoga Valley. “This restoration work is vital to improving water quality in the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie and this national park plays an important role within the Great Lakes,” said LeAaron Foley, Midwest Senior Outreach Coordinator for NPCA. “We are so happy to see students stepping up to become national park stewards.”

As part of the project, students will begin work to restore 22 acres of riparian habitat along a tributary of the Cuyahoga River. The project will improve habitat for fish and wildlife, enhance water quality in the Lake Erie Basin, reduce soil erosion, and engage participants in environmental stewardship and restoration. During Alternative Spring Break, students will prepare up to 250 native trees and shrubs for planting throughout the project area.

“We are thrilled to host this great opportunity for college students for the fourth year and in partnership with NPCA this year,” said Lisa Meranti, Director of Volunteer Services. “In addition to seeing the great work they accomplish over the weekend, it is moving to see the engagement level of the students throughout the year.”

Beyond the service learning and educational opportunities that the program provides, students also gain valuable career advice from guest speakers and related programs. For students interested in a career with the National Park Service, this opportunity gives them the inspiration and tools to start down that path.

The program also ensures that students have time to socialize and explore their national park. A campfire on Saturday evening and subsequent night hike, as well as opportunities for yoga and additional park exploring, help students relax in between all the hard work.

Many students are recurring participants in the program. Take Elena Stachew, for example. Elena has been attending Alternative Spring Break since she first heard about it in 2011 as an engineering student at Case Western Reserve University. During that first year, Elena built natural steps on a trail, prepared a garden for native plants, and hiked in the park—and she was hooked.

Elena said that coming to the park provided relief from the academic stresses of her challenging schoolwork—not to mention the opportunity to enjoy spectacular scenery, be outdoors, and work with others to steward the land she has come to love.

Even though Elena has graduated and now works out of Michigan, she continues to return to the park—and she’ll be back again for another Alternative Spring Break this year. In addition to Alternative Spring Break, Elena frequently visits CVNP for Days of Service, such as National Trails Day and National Public Lands Day, bringing her friends with her. “Once they know it’s here, they come back,” she said. Upcoming Days of Service include a special Earth Day event on April 19 to restore native habitat with park ecologists.

To see the program in action, the press is invited to join the students this weekend on Sunday, March 16, from 10:30 a.m. to noon in CVNP. Please contact Lisa Meranti at 570-778-0663 for information about where to meet the group.


About Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s Volunteers-in-Parks Program
CVNP’s VIP program is co-managed by the National Park Service and the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Together, they accomplish park goals through mutually beneficial volunteer experiences and engage people in the park, building a community of park stewards. Currently 6,300 VIPs donate 209,000 hours to provide the highest level of quality services to park visitors and to help protect America’s heritage.

To join these volunteers in making a difference at CVNP, contact the volunteer office at,
330-657-2299, or visit Many opportunities are available and training is provided.

About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit