American Conservation Experience Members Gain New Technical Skills and Strengthened Sense of Public Land Stewardship Through Replacing Split Rail Fencing at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park

Four young individuals smile in front of a log cabin
American Conservation Experience members working on replacing a split rail fence at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park

NPS Photo

Meet Marcos Perez and Kira Young, two American Conservation Experience members, who recently served at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Kentucky on a Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) Maintenance Action Team (MAT) project. Marcos and Kira, along with others, helped remove the existing split rail fencing that is in poor condition, and replaced it with a historically accurate fence.

Marcos is originally from Los Angeles, California, and he has been travelling across the country, working with various conservation corps, while gaining valuable transferrable skills. For him, supporting the planet through projects like these ensures people remember their roots, as they appreciate the national park lands for its beautiful natural and cultural resources. “I love working out in nature, so I stuck with it as I travelled, and as a result, it's my bread and butter. I can't think of going into any other career except conservation.” Kira is from Durham, North Carolina. She had the desire to work in conservation and found herself getting engaged with this project soon after joining ACE.

Working on a small size project and nonetheless important task of replacing this fence helps Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park continue to preserve and protect the significant cultural resources associated with Abraham Lincoln’s birth, early boyhood, and memorialization. It also provides visitors with an opportunity to experience and understand this period in the 16th President’s life. The entire park is part of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), which is an official list of the nation's historic places worthy of preservation. The NRHP is authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.

Read on for Marcos’ and Kira’s reflections on their experiences with this MAT project.

How Was Your Project Experience?

Two young individuals with tools replace a wooden fence
American Conservation Experience members Kira Young (left) and Marcos Perez (right) work together on replacing the split rail fence at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park

NPS Photo

Marcos: Helping to preserve and recreate the historical split rail fence definitely gave me a sense of pride, especially knowing how future generations will remember and wonder about such a time. It allows them to gain a deeper understanding of preservation while also enjoying the beauty and the park’s significance. This project is a contributing factor to that. I was the Crew Leader responsible for the project and the team. I balanced the crew’s safety and productivity with also helping them to learn new skills trades and providing networking opportunities. I learned to balance doing my part in getting the fence built while ensuring the team was taken care of at our camp site.

Kira: Our crew was responsible for dismantling a portion of the old historical fence and constructing a new fence after drilling and preparing the materials required to build it. It felt very gratifying to work on this historical site because we were part of the work getting done and were able to see the progress. We also encountered visitors who took a lot of interest in the project and our work. This project was a particularly cool experience as there were many educational opportunities. The site itself was informative with all the signs and facts about Lincoln’s life. The project partner’s enthusiasm about improving the site was contagious.

How Did You Learn and Grow?

Five individuals help replace a fence. A sign for a citizen science walk is on the right. In the background is the woods.
American Conservation Experience members and NPS staff work on replacing the split rail fence at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park

NPS Photo

Marcos: This was my first split rail fence I've ever built and it sure was a blast. Getting through the learning curve and finding that smooth rhythm was a great achievement. I can confidently add this project to my skill set, and I've grown to enjoy the carpentry needed for such an effort. Getting to work alongside the NPS and project team was wonderful in gaining insight into future career paths. It’s absolutely a project to remember. I can clearly see the process behind a split rail fence now, and as a result, my leadership abilities improved. Learning to delegate and focus on communication were key to ensuring the team worked great together, and our project partner Takyan was especially helpful with this.

Kira: This project certainly presented me with opportunities to expand my technical skills. I had never built a fence before and there were many tools involved that I hadn’t used before. Both my crew and the project partners were super patient and helpful, which made the learning process so much easier and enjoyable.

What Was the Impact on the Community

Completed split rail fencing with trees with fall colors
The completed split rail fencing at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park

NPS Photo

Marcos: Anybody who visits Abraham Lincoln's Birthplace National Historical Park will be greeted with the recreated historical split rail fence and instantly taken back to a critical time that would determine our present. I believe acknowledging our history and how we came to be as a society helps us in our future paths. Being at such a historical site you can't help but think about how the past, in a sense, it still plays a significant role today. Having a visual stimulant like the split rail fence along an old cabin helps one get in such a head space. If we lose our historical landmarks, we'll forget all the work that was put into getting us where we are, thus losing its value and connection to our country. A country without a connection to its people will become lost. Our wildlife reserves and historical parks are a testament to the perseverance and determination to make a place of beauty and wholesome for countless generations to come.

Kira: I think the restoration of historic sites like Lincoln’s Birthplace National Historical Park helps to create a more accessible environment in terms of historical and outdoor recreation. It gives one an overall environmental education. It presents the community with an important opportunity to connect with nature. Putting time and resources into restoration, I think, reflects a level of care that makes others more eager to be a part of the project and site. It seems to spark an interest when people can see that a lot of work is being done to maintain these landmarks, inviting them to engage. When more people learn about the history of a place, it brings us together to preserve and appreciate the environment.

This maintenance of the landscape demonstrates the park’s good stewardship, dedication, and commitment to preserving park lands while providing outdoor access to the public.

Follow along with us as we share new stories about youth-specific MAT projects in this article series. Have a question about Youth or Young Adult Programs? Please e-mail us. Learn more about what we do. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Part of a series of articles titled Youth Maintenance Action Team Projects.

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park

Last updated: December 19, 2023