Corps youth crews rehabilitate Skyland Stables

By Katie Demeria

Skyland Stables in Shenandoah National Park was built in 1939 as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps. Now, a similar program has recently finished a major rehabilitation of the historic structure.

The Corps Network teamed up with the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s HOPE Crew in order to both preserve historic places and engage youth in the effort, according to Tess Richey, development assistant with the network.

The groups started organizing an effort to update and repair the stables, enlisting the help of the Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia, a descendent of Roosevelt’s program. The idea was to encourage an appreciation for historic structures and teach useful skills to the youths involved, who range in age from 16 to 24.

“We’re partnering with the trust to engage youth in these historic preservation projects,” Richey said. “[The crew] gained really valuable skills in historic preservation and carpentry.”

The work took six weeks, and on Wednesday representatives from the various organizations, including Jim Northup, Shenandoah National Park’s superintendent, and the HOPE crew that completed the work, participated in a ribbon-cutting event.

“This idea of involving young people in doing historic preservation work was in part the vision of the National Trust for Historic preservation, and we think it’s a really exciting idea — I’m not sure why someone didn’t think of it much, much earlier,” Northup said.

Raheem Abdul Hamid, 20, was part of the crew from the conservation corps in West Virginia that worked on updating the stable. Their work varied, ranging from painting to updating roofs to working with concrete.

He said he was particularly interested in the carpentry skills he was able to learn.

“I loved the work,” Abdul Hamid said.

Nicholas Edwards, 18, was also a crew member. He said the skills he learned will help him with his fallback career. His ultimate goal is to join the military.

“It was great that we were able to save it, rather than tearing it down,” he said.

Skyland Stables houses 12 horses, and is operated by Delaware North Companies to offer fee-for-service trail rides to park visitors. It will continue to operate in that capacity after the rehabilitation.

“We took an important historic structure that was in terrible shape and made it better,” Northup said. “I think we helped some young people develop some new skills that they can continue to use to do meaningful work in other national parks and throughout the country.”

The Skyland Stables rehabilitation is the first of many projects the National Trust hopes to pursue throughout the country.

Robert Martin, CEO of the Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia, touched on the structure’s historical relevance.

“President Franklin Delano Roosevelt surely would have been proud of the work you all have done,” Martin told the crew. “He created the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 30s, and this is what it’s all about.”

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com