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A trail building project in Whitehorse not only aims to reconnect young people with nature, but hopes to keep the teenagers busy. (Liam Harrap/CBC) At-risk teens in Whitehorse are building a new multi-use trail in the city.

The Youth Achievement Centre, which is a Yukon government program, is managing six disadvantaged teens to construct a path that will traverse Grey Mountain. Rain or shine, the trail crew works three days a week. They hope to have this trail built in five years. (Liam Harrap/CBC) The youths have social and/or economic disadvantages that make getting a job difficult. Rob Horne, the program facilitator for the centre, says this project provides opportunities for teens to get a solid first paying job to add to their resumé.

"We saw the demand that the youth wanted employment in the summer and wanted to earn money. This was a great way to create employment and give them experience," said Horne.

The Youth Achievement Centre has built trails for six years. Last summer, they finished the construction of the ‘Blow Out’ trail.

Currently there are more than 700 kilometres of trails built within Whitehorse city limits. Horne hopes to finish the new one in five years.

Rain or shine, the trail crew works three days a week. The path is dug by hand using shovels and axes. In the difficult and rocky terrain, sometimes it takes more than a week to construct a couple hundred metres of trail.

"By any means, any job after this is easy," said Horne with a laugh.

The project is similar to another in Carcross called Singletrack to Success, which employs First Nation youths to construct mountain biking trails.

"We saw how the youth were invested and inspired to work in the wilderness and on the mountain and we thought, why don’t we do that as well in Whitehorse," said Horne. ‘This job is really important to us,’ says Isaac Bill. (Liam Harrap/CBC) ‘This job keeps you busy’

The trail building project in Whitehorse helps young people reconnect with nature; it also keeps them busy.

"I’d probably get in more trouble be a little nuisance," said Isaac Bill, 16, from beneath a haze of mosquitoes on the trail’s edge.

"That’s what summers are about, partying being stupid. This job keeps you busy. Don’t have to worry about getting in trouble."

Horne says the trail crew has a high attendance rate, with almost 95 per cent of the teenagers showing up to work every day.

"This job is really important to us. It gives us a chance to help out the community and for people to have fun," said Bill.

Jonathon Wright, 16, has worked on the trail crew for three summers. He says one of his most memorable moments happened this summer when the crew broke three tools on one stump. Jonathon Wright, 16, has worked on the trail crew for three summers. (Liam Harrap/CBC) "That was the first day on this trail."

The project is a collaboration between the City of Whitehorse, the Youth Achievement Centre, Contagious Mountain Bike Club, and BYTE, a youth organization in Whitehorse. It’s funded by the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) and the federal government’s Canada 150 fund.When it’s complete, the 10-kilometre trail will connect to GoT, another multi-use trail, and to the helicopter pad near the summit of Grey Mountain.The new trail is yet to be named. A suggestion box will soon be available at Icycle Sport in Whitehorse.Horne says the trail will be a signature path for Whitehorse, and the name should tell a story that reflects the culture and geography of the area.

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