YHCC at McCormick's Creek State Park

Eddie Laing  YHCC workers at McCormicks Creek State Park

Brittany Kent

    Invasive species threaten all natural areas. Keeping Indiana’s public lands free of non-native, unwanted plants, insects, and animals is a never-ending chore. Autumn Olive, Multiflora Rose, Emerald Ash Border, and feral hogs are just a few examples.

    But perhaps no invasive species is as dangerous or frustrating as the “litter bug.”

    At McCormick’s Creek State Park this summer, two members of the Young Hoosiers Conservation Corps are working hard to stamp out the ill effects caused by litter bugs. Eddie Laing, 19, and Brittany Kent, 18, both of Poland, Ind., spend their workday traveling the park, picking up trash and litter. They remove trash from designated receptacles and remove litter on the ground. The latter has taught them to appreciate park visitors who put garbage in its proper place. 

    “I just can’t believe anyone can come into a place as beautiful as McCormick’s Creek and throw garbage on the ground. I mean, don’t they come here to get away from that?” Kent said.

    Litter isn’t found only along roadways. Kent and Laing hike trails, walk creek banks, scour picnic shelters, and visit all corners of the park to make sure no trash is left where it doesn’t belong.

    “Eddie and Brittany are doing a fantastic job,” said Corey Rieman, assistant property manager. “They have taken a simple task of picking up trash, and turned into a passion. They make up contests and games to see who can find the most litter. I can tell they’re excited about their jobs, and of course that makes my job easier. These two are doing the YHCC program proud.”

    The dynamic duo has created an ongoing contest to see who can pick up the most cigarette butts.

    “You wouldn’t believe how many cigarette butts we find on the ground,” Laing said. “It's like people don’t think cigarettes count as litter. They just throw them anywhere like they belong in a parking lot or along the road. But I think they’re just as bad as any other litter.”

    At last count, Laing led Kent, 89 cigarette butts to 84.

    The YHCC was designed to provide jobs for young Hoosiers in need of work, with the hope that the effects of the job go much deeper than a paycheck. The two McCormick's Creek workers said they are becoming better citizens of Indiana because of what they are learning.

    “This job instills good values in you. I’ve never liked litter, but now, it just drives me crazy. I would never throw any trash on the ground. Litter looks horrible,” Kent said.

    Aside from the specifics of trash, the YHCC workers are taught lessons on teamwork, and how to properly function in a positive work environment.  Eddie is extremely proud of a trash receptacle decision he made.

    “There was trash can by the nature center that varmints were always getting into. Well, I noticed it was never full, so I figured we could get away with a smaller one inside. Corey liked my idea and actually made the change,” Laing said.

    Such YHCC achievements of positive progression can instill a sense of confidence in the workers that, ideally, will encourage them to pursue success when the program ends this fall.

    Kent plans to return to Indiana State University for her sophomore year of nursing school. Laing said he hopes to complete his GED  by the time his YHCC job ends, then pursue a real estate license so he can join the family business of remodeling and selling houses.

    Take a drive through McCormick’s Creek State Park. Watch the roadside for trash. You shouldn’t find any. It's refreshing.

    “There won’t be any litter on the ground under my watch,” Laing said “You can bet on it.”