YHCC at Clifty Falls State Park

Daniel Todd

Seth Shields

The country music duo The Judds sing “love can build a bridge.” At Clifty Falls State Park, a group of seven Young Hoosiers Conservation Corps workers test this claim as they use natural materials to construct a bridge across Hoffman Creek, just above the falls.

“Building this bridge means so much to me, because my cousin lost her life right here,” said Daniel Todd, 20, of Madison.

Todd’s cousin, Heather O’Banion, died March 7, 2000, after being swept over Hoffman Falls. She fell 80 feet.

They're building the bridge built out of logs from trees that ice storms felled last January.

Kevin Snyder, assistant property manager, quickly named the project as a highlight of the YHCC workers’ contribution to Clifty Falls. He also praised the crew.

“The YHCC workers building the bridge are doing a great job. They don’t need much supervision, and it seems they have all bought into the project. I keep hearing how much they love their job,” Snyder said.

Todd, who is openly proud of his role in helping create a means of preventing another tragedy like his cousin's, has his own personal story. He is progressively losing sight due to the hereditary eye disease keratoconus, which thins the cornea.  He is qualified for a double cornea transplant, and begins procedures of preparation, Sept. 23. He could do it sooner, but wants to finish his job with the YHCC.

“Man, this job (YHCC) means so much to me, because I grew up in Clifty Falls State Park. I mean, I learned to ride a bike here. And now, my son can walk across a bridge I built. It means I’ll always have a part of the park to point at and say “I did that,’” Todd said.

Todd said he has mixed emotions about the upcoming transplant.

“Without the special lens I wear on my eyes, I am legally blind, and eventually I’d be completely blind without a transplant. But the corneas I need must come from a donor under 20 years old, within 24 hours of their death. I don’t like that,” Todd said.

“(Todd) really is an incredible young man,” Snyder said.

Another member of the YHCC crew building the bridge is Seth Shields, 23, of Madison. Shields has a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University in health science, and is a certified emergency medical technician (EMT). He has spent the last year substitute teaching, but when the school year ended, he needed a job. He joined the YHCC.

“I love being outdoors, especially at the park. Growing up in Madison, you have to love Clifty Falls, Shields said.

When the program ends for him this September, Shields hopes to enter his first year of graduate school at Butler University.

“My short-term goal is to get my physician’s assistant degree and go to work and then decide if I want to go on to become a doctor,” Shields said while hand mixing concrete in a trough.

YHCC workers contribute to the beautification of state properties all across Indiana. Some projects are routine. Others, like the bridge across Hoffman Falls, will remain as a legacy to the workers.