Skip to content

Riding the Baileys Trail System to New Career Paths

“This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. It’s my first professional job. I’m lucky. A lot of people don’t get these opportunities. This job could set me on a whole new direction. It’s the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me.”

 

http://ruralaction.org/

Meet Dallas Taylor, a 19-year old resident of Glouster, Ohio and recent Trimble High School graduate. One day in early October, Taylor stopped in at the Glouster Public Library to use the internet when librarian Sarah Fisher presented him with an opportunity. Fisher’s partner, Joe Brehm, the Environmental Education Director at Rural Action, was looking for someone just like Taylor to fill a new internship position with the Baileys Trail System. “As the collaborative team managing the Baileys project deliberated on novel ways to promote the trails and nearby businesses, we saw an opportunity to involve local young people in this effort,” Brehm explained. “One skill set that we hoped a local intern could bring was the ability to make short videos detailing their experiences on the trails. Dallas had some film knowledge from creating personal videos about growing up in Glouster, and he’s very well-connected with local people his age. He’s someone who could bring a lot of awareness about the trails to kids who otherwise wouldn’t hear about them.”

Brehm partnered with Allison Ricket, the BECAN Director and an Education Engagement Specialist at Building Bridges to Careers (BB2C). “Joe and I both identify very passionately with the idea of providing high school students with opportunities to intern with local entities that are dedicated to the triple bottom linepeople, profit, planet,” Ricket said. “We both love Southeastern Ohio and believe that a key to long-term health and vitality of the region lies in building the social capital of youth through connecting them to the local community.” 

https://www.arc.gov/

Taylor’s internship stipend was made possible through an Appalachian Regional Commission POWER grant awarded jointly to Rural Action, the Wayne National Forest, the Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia (ORCA), Ohio’s Winding Road Network, ACEnet, the Buckeye Trail Association, and HAPCAP. This grant supports efforts to create a more vibrant economic future for coal-impacted communities. In partnership with BB2C, Rural Action established three goals for the internship component of the grant—to actively communicate and collaborate with the host organization in order to identify specific needs, to provide professional experience in the intern’s field of interest, and to expand the intern’s social and professional networks. The first half of Taylor’s internship will focus on basic video production and storytelling through a vlog-style format. He will then move into creating more polished promotional videos under the mentorship of Evan Shaw, a local Emmy-winning filmmaker. “Anyone who’s seen a video produced by Dallas can immediately recognize what a unique and fun perspective he has. His dry enthusiasm is infectious,” Shaw said. “It’s vital that the next generation of Southeast Ohioans has a platform to share how they experience our region. This is a wonderful opportunity for Dallas to explore his creativity and the stories of our area.”

Though Taylor is hoping to purchase a car with his internship stipend, for now he often rides his bike 20 miles roundtrip from his home in Glouster to the trailhead in Chauncey. “It’s changed my life,” he mused. “I love it. I love riding to work in Chauncey. I love every second of it.” Taylor is no stranger to the unique rewards and challenges of growing up in rural Southeast Ohio. “I graduated in May and a lot of people didn’t think that was going to happen. But I did it and I proved a lot of people wrong. This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. It’s my first professional job. I’m lucky. A lot of people don’t get these opportunities. This job could set me on a whole new direction. It’s the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Dallas Taylor, 19, often rides his bike 20 miles roundtrip to his internship on the Baileys.

 

In his time at Rural Action, Brehm has witnessed the very real impacts these opportunities can afford. “Over the past two years, we’ve seen these internship experiences change the lives of numerous students—some drastically, others subtly—across several counties in Southeast Ohio. At least three of our former interns secured part-time or permanent employment as a direct result of their internships,” Brehm said. In the macro view, the long-term impacts drew Rural Action to pursue this project with BB2C and ORCA, as internships for young people are a key rung in a career ladder based on outdoor recreation and ecotourism. “The model we look to is in Costa Rica,” Brehm continued. “There are a lot of jobs in ecotourism and students can enter the workforce immediately after high school because of the internships they complete. These jobs depend on environmental health and biodiversity, so there lies strong motivation to take good care of the land. This internship program and overall philosophy of creating jobs from a healthy environment blows the ‘jobs vs. environment dichotomy’ to pieces, revealing important common ground between economic growth and environmental health that can and will improve the quality of life for people in our region.” 

Brehm sees the Baileys Trail System as fertile grounds to create jobs while implementing a shared stewardship among the area’s youth. “If we can train students like Dallas to make promotional videos, he could earn at least part of his living from the trail system and forest through which it runs,” he said. “If we can train other students to guide professional hikes, lead mountain biking workshops, or run bike shops and cafes, they can earn a living rooted in a healthy landscape.” Ricket concurred, stating, “It is my vision and hope that we are able to fold youth voices and participation into the community-building investment of the Baileys Trail System. I want our local young people building businesses connected to the Baileys, strengthening economic diversity in our community while keeping dollars in the hands of local people. I want our young people to grow into young adults who appreciate the natural resources we have here and the unique eco-tourism opportunities we have in our own backyards. I want our young people to be proud of their home and to feel there is opportunity, potential, and a future for themselves here, should they want that.”  

In his first two weeks, Taylor has already noticed the improvements happening in Chauncey. “My grandparents live across from the trailhead and they remember a time before the trails were here. Things are changing. If Chauncey takes in hundreds of thousands of dollars in the future, they can build businesses everywhere. These trails really mean a lot to a lot of people.” Reflecting on the many voices he’s interviewed while on the trails, Taylor marveled, “People are coming from miles away just to take a bike ride. It’s really going to help Chauncey. It’s amazing.”

Learn more about Rural Action’s Environmental Education program, opportunities through BB2C, and the ARC POWER grant. Follow the Baileys’ many exciting updates—including Dallas’s adventures on the trails—on Instagram @baileystrailsystem, Facebook @BaileysTrails, and Twitter @baileys_trails.

 

Written by Jasmine Facun, with contributions from Joe Brehm