Blog

AmeriCorps

Viewing posts from the AmeriCorps category

ACE California – Fort Ord Dunes Native Species Planting

ACE has been planting native species in the Ford Ord dunes since late November 2017. By the conclusion of the project, over 23,000 will be planted. Located on Monterey Bay, Fort Ord offers beautiful ocean views, and is now an area of recreation for tourists and locals alike.

Marisa, a 900 hour Americorps member, clears a patch of dead Ice Plant to make room for a Beach Aster sapling. In one day, Marisa will plant about 100 of these. By replacing the invasive Ice Plant with the native Beach Aster, the Fort Ord Dunes are likely to see a positive reduction in erosion, water consumption, and wildlife populations as the saplings grow and reintroduce themselves to the coastal habitat.

Marisa, a 900 hour Americorps member, clears a patch of dead Ice Plant to make room for a Beach Aster sapling. In one day, Marisa will plant about 100 of these. By replacing the invasive Ice Plant with the native Beach Aster, the Fort Ord Dunes are likely to see a positive reduction in erosion, water consumption, and wildlife populations as the saplings grow and reintroduce themselves to the coastal habitat.

Human History: Land use and impact

There is no mistaking the immense impact humans have had on the area. Evidence of this can be seen by both natural and unnatural materials on the dunes.

Fort Ord was originally an Army installation that encompassed 15 rifle ranges, officially closed in 1994. To this day it is not uncommon to find bullet casings in the dunes. ACE Crew leaders and Americorps members underwent bomb recognition training in the event any explosives are found while working.

dscf0005

“Restoration is experimental because it will take a while to see the effects of our efforts. Restoration is such a large part of conservation, when you’re trail building it’s easy to forget that.” -Jesse, Americorps ACL

dscf0047

Natural History and Restoration:

Since November 2017, ACE staff and crew have been working alongside California State Parks representatives at Fort Ord Dunes State Park in a longer-term habitat restoration effort. ACE crews are now planting natives in soil beneath the dead Ice Plant, including Beach Aster, Coastal Buckwheat, Lizard tail, Sticky Monkey Flower, Sage Brush, Sage Wart, and Lupin. Each four-day project produces about 4,000 new plants. Reintroduction of these native plants will have a lasting impact on the area, improving water intake, plant biodiversity, and native animal populations.

dscf0023

Green patches of native plants are reemerging after a past herbicide project cleared the Ice Plant. The Smith’s Blue Butterfly used to thrive in this area, particularly due to the native Coastal Buckwheat.

dscf0037

“It’s nice to plant instead of just ripping plants out. Some people want to learn about biological systems, so this is a good learning opportunity.” -Vince, AmeriCorps ACL

dscf0032

“I’m into restoration and I’m down to be any part of the process, but planting feels the most valuable. My background is in ecology and I feel that this is in line with my education. Seeing whales is a big highlight too.  -Marisa, AmeriCorps member

dscf0021

 

Pecos Wilderness | Borrego Trail | Crosscut

Pecos Wilderness campsite as seen at night.

Pecos Wilderness campsite as seen at night.

Summer 2017 was a tremendously busy season for ACE’s Crew Program. ACE Southwest teams had the opportunity to work on a two-month project in the Pecos Wilderness just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, on the Borrego Trail. ACE is proud to offer our corps members a wide range of training on different types of equipment and a variety of of tools. This project called for our teams to use the classic crosscut saw.

A blue ribbon is tied to the fence on the corner of West Clay Avenue, Flagstaff March 22nd, 2017.

The use of crosscut saws dates back to the 15th century, and they are still in use today with very little change in their design. “It’s really cool to be using these saws that have been used for centuries”, explained crew member, Emily Merlo. These saws are used to cut against the wood grain of trees. The crew is using them to “buck up” already down trees. Bucking is a term that refers to the cutting up of already down trees.

Andrew Palomo removes the bark from the log before beginning the cut.

Andrew Palomo removes the bark from the log before beginning the cut.

A bucking saw generally has a straighter back and less of a pronounced curve on its cutting surface. Since bucking saws are more often used on trees that are already downed, the greater stiffness and weight aids swift cutting, and allows two-man saws to also be used by one person, pushing as well as pulling.

The crew enjoying a lunch break in the Pecos Wilderness.

The crew enjoying a lunch break in the Pecos Wilderness.

There are several reasons why crosscut saws are preferred over chainsaws, on certain projects. First, crosscut saws are lighter which makes it easier for crews to carry in to remote locations as most ACE crews backpack in all of their camping gear, food, and tools. This particular crew hiked over ten miles into the forest to reach the project site. The weight of chainsaws and fuel make crosscuts saws a better choice for these long hikes in. Additionally, many areas of the National Forests of the United States are designated as Wilderness Areas and as such the use of mechanized and motorized equipment is prohibited, except by special circumstance, as the noise chainsaws  have the potential to disturb wildlife.

Crew member, Emily Merlo completes the cut.

Crew member, Emily Merlo completes the cut.

ACE crew leader, Kaitlin Egan led the project for the entire duration. The primary objective of this project was to clear downed trees that blocked the trail. The crews worked in two-person teams with the crosscut saw requiring one person on each side. Prior to beginning the work the team starts by assessing each tree, then decides on an approach based on how the tree fell from flooding and wind, where there is tension on the tree, and which way the log will roll once it is cut. And last, the decision is made as to who will take the saw when the cut is complete. It’s a very calculated process to ensure the safety of our crews and that the proper technique is utilized.

A two-man team works to bring down a tree that has fallen from natural causes and was left suspended over the trail.

This project is the second year of work on the Borrego Trail for ACE.  On this particular project the crews cleared the first four miles of trail where they set up camp in the backcountry of the Pecos Wilderness. As they worked their way up the trail, they eventually made it to the campsite at mile ten. Within the first month the crew was able to clear fourteen miles of trail from fallen trees.

ACE corps member, Alexander Hesketh records the diameter of the tree he and his partner have just bucked.

ACE corps member, Alexander Hesketh records the diameter of the tree he and his partner have just bucked.

ACE is proud to be able to provide our teams with  backcountry and wilderness skills to allow our corps members to be a part of improving access to this beautiful trail. We’d like to thank our partners at Pecos Wilderness and the USFS for your guidance and partnership as well as our ACE Southwest Crew for your hard work and dedication on this project.

dsc_9668

The Pecos Wilderness crosscut crew at sunset on the first day of the two-month long project.

Arizona Trail | Pine, AZ

ACE Arizona has been working with the Arizona Trail Association on several different sections of the 800-mile trail. In September ACE had a crew led by Katherine Dickey and Natalie Kolesar working just outside of Pine, AZ. Over the course of two eight-day projects, the crew worked on general trail maintenance as well as building rock structures and building footbridges with timber construction.

Crew members debark the logs to prevent the logs from rotting.

Crew members debark the logs to prevent the logs from rotting.

The crew put in two puncheon foot bridges within approximately the first mile of the trail. The process of putting in these creek crossings involves debarking, “ripping” the log, hauling the split logs up to the puncheon sites and setting them in place. Ripping refers to the act of splitting the tree lengthwise; each half provides the walking surface of the bridge. The bark is first removed from the tree trunk because the bark holds in moisture, to keep these wood structures from rotting the bark is scraped off by hand. To set the logs, the crew members dig holes for smaller logs to sit in on either side of the creek. Those logs are then reinforced with crush (small rock fragments) to hold the logs in place. Then, the larger logs receive saddle notches so that they fit like puzzle pieces on top of their smaller counterparts.

National Trails Trainer, Mark Loseth teaches crew leader, Katherine Dickey to make measurements on the log for saddle notches.

National Trails Trainer, Mark Loseth teaches crew leader, Katherine Dickey to make measurements on the log for saddle notches.

The purpose of putting in bridges over creek crossings is to prevent erosion and sedimentation in the creek. This area of Arizona is a very delicate riparian zone. It is one of the few places in Arizona where you can see a multitude of tree species including maple and alder trees. This type of lumber work requires a lot of measuring, leveling, and precision with the chainsaw. ACE National Trails Trainer, Mark Loseth visited the crew and made sure that crew was entirely equipt with the tools and knowledge to get the work done.

Crew members roll the log into position to be cut.

Crew members roll the log into position to be cut.

During the second half of this project, the crew built armored drain pans along some of the eroded parts of the trail. The armored drain pans protect the path and direct water off of the trail. A multi-tiered rock wall and rock steps were also put in by the crew during the duration of this project.

Crew Leader, Katherine Dickey rips the log in half to create the platform for the footbridge.

Crew Leader, Katherine Dickey rips the log in half to create the platform for the footbridge.

ACE has been fortunate to have completed multiple sections of trail work along the 800-mile Arizona Trail and would like to thank our partners at the Arizona Trails Association. For more information on this trail follow the link below:

https://aztrail.org/the-trail/

Crew members haul the logs by hand to the puncheon sites.

Crew members haul the logs by hand to the puncheon sites.

Garrapata State Park – Big Sur, California

dsc_9616-1

Since January of 2017 ACE California has had a crew working along the coast in Garrapata State Park. This ongoing project is the first in partnership with California State Parks, a relationship ACE hopes to continue to build in the years to come. The ACE crew has been lead by Kevin Magallanes since the start of the project and will continue to be lead by Kevin until its completion.

dsc_9226

ACE corps members have been working on two different projects with the California State Parks crew. Half of the crew were building wooden steps along the trail. With the use of drills, saws, and the frequent double checking of measurements the crew constructed the wooden base for a staircase that will later be filled with small rocks. These steps make the hike more easily traversable by reducing the trail’s steepness.

dsc_9358

The other half of the crew was building a multi-tier retaining wall which will be a lookout over the coast when it is completed. “Rock work is this strange meditative process,” explained Jesse Wherry who has been on the project for three months, “you can spend your entire day on something and in the end you just have to take it all down.” This extensive amount of rock building requires a lot of patience, skill, and experience from the crew members.

dsc_9882-1

The crew brought on three new members during this project who got to learn about both rock work and step building. This lookout is one of two multiple week long projects that the crew will complete for the trail. ACE looks forward to the continuation of this project over the upcoming months in the best office anyone could ever ask for.

dsc_0335

dsc_9711

Happy National Bike Month!

ACE Arizona – Rockhound State Park – New Mexico – Trail Work

dsc_8408

During the week of March 27th, ACE Arizona crew members served at Rockhound State park in New Mexico. The crews were lead by Katherine Dickey. Rockhound is located in the Little Florida Mountains and known for its abundance of minerals that visitors are allowed to collect. This is the second project ACE has participated in at the state park.

dsc_8260

The ACE crews worked on two separate trails in the park. One crew reconstructed part of the Spring Canyon trail which has been closed since 2002. The reconstruction included creating a reroute on the trail because the original route was too steep for hikers. This involved building check steps, a rock staircase, tread widening and brushing. There were also many social trails that the crew worked to block off to concentrate foot traffic to the main trail.

dsc_8192

The second crew worked on the Lovers Leap trail with three main objectives. The crew built a retaining wall, a staircase, and widened the tread of the trail. After the main objectives were completed, the crew provided general maintenance which included brushing and back sloping the tread.

dsc_8378

The previous ACE crew that went out to the park and worked on the Lovers Leap trail trail created switchbacks. The ACE’s New Mexico state park partners were excited to have the crew back to put finishing touches on the trail; the crew was grateful to have the opportunity to spend time in such a beautiful park.

ACE in Huffington Post – Engaging Women in Conservation by The Corps Network

Last month was Women in History month. In recognition of this month-long celebration, our amazing partners at The Corps Network did an informative piece for Huffington Post Blog. They reached out to women within the conservation world who literally blaze trails: the women of Conservation Corps.

We are thrilled that some of the women on our ACE staff as well as some of our female crew leaders and crews were quoted and shown throughout this article.

Thank you to our staff that contributed to this wonderful article: Director of California, Sarah Miggins, National Restoration Program Manager Afton McKusick, Crew Leaders, Jenny Diamond and Krish Karau, photo of corps member, Kyia Foster, Photojournalist, Jessica Plance, Director of Communications, Susie Jardine, President/CEO, Christopher Baker.

Click here for article: Engaging Woman in Conservation

 

 

 

#IamACE – Meet Kyia Foster

We had a few minutes to catch up with Corps Member, Kyia Foster this past fall as she was volunteering at the Grand Canyon. Like all of our amazing corps members, Kyia was very busy working on a trail. We were happy she had a moment to take a break and tell us a little about herself and her experience with ACE. Thanks Kyia! kyia3

Can you tell me a little bit about your background and what drew you to the world of environmental conservation?

I was born in Illinois, raised in Georgia. I had no knowledge of the outdoors until I came to college and I worked at an outdoor recreation center doing trips, rentals, and a rock-wall challenge course. From there, I was a part of the Outdoor Recreation Conference and they send out emails about all outdoor jobs and everything like that and I got something through them about ACE. I graduated in December and I was just working and I really wanted to see if ACE and conservation work was a path I wanted to pursue for the future. I studied Health Care Administration so this has been pretty different for me.

What has been a challenge and a highlight for you?

For me, the most challenging thing is hiking. I know I am a slow hiker but I like to keep up with everyone else but they have a naturally fast pace and I do not. I like to coast, we’ll say. The work is good, it brings me back to my working days. It’s different every time we go out. The highlight for me is the view and getting to know more people so when we go back to off days I actually know who these people are and were able to hang out if we want to. And that we can go wherever we want to on our off days. As far as the work goes, it’s very just rewarding in itself.

kyia-1

Where are you hoping that this position with ACE leads you in future?

Already, I know that I should get on USA Jobs and if I do want to do outdoor recreation type of work, I should possibly serve another AmeriCorps term or something similar, perhaps at a park or even with the National Parks Service. I’m thinking about the National Parks Service but that’s probably because all of the hitches that I have been on have been in the Grand Canyon so that’s the only thing I have been involved with. So far that’s what I’m thinking but I don’t know for certain.

 

What sets ACE apart from other positions you have had in the past?

I do think that it’s good that you get that taste of different things when you go on hitches because you are able to network and speak with the project partners or the crew leaders and get a feel of how they got to where they are. I like to ask the people I work with how they got to where they are which gives me more ideas about where I want to go. And I think the variety is great. kyia-2

Lake Mead – Song Dog Native Plant Nursery

dsc_3249-2This past October 2016 an ACE Arizona crew, in partnership with the National Park Service, was working at Song Dog Native Plant Nursery in Lake Mead, Nevada. The scope of the project was to prepare the greenhouse and nursery to host new plants.30588307046_f23f35f14a_k

The crew was a compilation of corps members from ACE’s California and Arizona branches led by crew leader, Morgane Rigney

dsc_3506

The goal is to get over 30,000 seedlings to a plantable size by next year for restoration projects. ACE’s efforts were focused on helping the nursery reach this goal by assisting with an array of different tasks.dsc_3705

The nursery salvages plants that have been saved from natural disaster or construction sites, as well as raising their own plants. The crew helped clean up plant storage areas, washed pots for new plants, recycled soil from plants that didn’t make it and sowed Joshua Tree seeds.30507395192_bfc779aa64_k

Crew members prepared the cartridges for the seeds, mixed the soil, and then placed the Joshua Tree seeds into the cartridges. The nursery has a goal of over 10,000 Joshua Trees for the future. In the past crews have also assisted in the cleaning and drying of plant seeds. 30624321805_e45d52ab18_k

This project will continue into next year with crews weeding, planting and building fence for the nursery.

 

 

 

Fuel Reduction in Zion National Park – Watchman’s Campground

dsc_5799Starting November 1st ACE’s Utah branch had a crew lead by Troy Rudy working in Zion National Park at the Watchman’s Campground. The scope of the project was to reduce the fire hazards around the Watchman Campground loops. dsc_5732

The crew worked to reduce the campground’s sagebrush by roughly 80%, while strategically leaving desirable species to provide privacy between campsites. This technique should strike a balance between reducing the risk of wildfire and preserving the cultivated native plant aesthetic already present in the campground. The crews then reinforced the removal efforts with the use of herbicide on the remaining stumps to prevent regrowth. dsc_6089

dsc_5450

Approximately ten years ago there was an effort to actually plant sagebrush at the Watchman’s campground to keep the campground rich with native plants. However, about a year ago there was an accidental fire close to the campsite area. Sagebrush is a highly flammable plant and with only one road leading in and out of the park the plants proved to be too dangerous to leave at the site.dsc_6039

The crews target species was Rabbitbrush, Big Basin Sagebrush, Sand Sagebrush.  The slash was hauled out and piled in a manner that will make if safe to burn at a later date. Our ACE Utah crew is working in partnership with the National Parks Service, specifically with the Fire Management Department. 25375289019_e3fd9a8667_k-2

dsc_5791

Corps to Career – Kenneth De Jesus Graciani

We are so happy to be able to share another Corps to Career success story out of our ACE Puerto Rico program.
Former ACE Member Kenneth De Jesus Graciani worked as an ACE corps member from October 2015 – April 2016. Kenneth was able to take his experience and work ethic and transition to a position working for NPS at San Juan National Historic Site.
We sat down with Kenneth for a Q and A to find out about where he is with NPS, how he achieved his goal of working for an agency and how ACE was a small part of his journey.

kenneth-de-jesus-gracianiWhere are you from originally? I am from Arroyo, Puerto Rico.
What motivated you or inspired you to be in conservation? I wanted to get experience doing this kind of work. My father and Uncle both work in conservation for the National Park Service and so at a young age I was very interested in this type of work and I wanted to learn as much as I could.
How did you find out about ACE? My Uncle saw a flyer for the Conservation Corps at the NPS office and he told me about the opportunity.
What was your role with ACE? My role as a crew member with ACE was to carry out the daily projects that were assigned to us by NPS staff and our crew leaders. The work involved historic preservation, trail maintenance, new trail construction, and removing unwanted trees that were damaging the historic fortress.
kenneth-teamworkWhat was your favorite project and why? I loved the “outworks” trail project. It involved mixing cement and building a new network of trails for tourists to enjoy that were not there before. The work was very rewarding and both NPS staff and Park visitors were appreciative of our efforts.
What was one of your biggest challenges? When you have good training and leadership from NPS and ACE, all projects are possible and none were too challenging.
What was your favorite aspect of being an ACE corps member? Everything. I loved mixing concrete to building new trails. I learned new skills from the crew leaders that gave me the confidence to apply for an NPS job.
How did you attain the position with NPS? I attained this position by gaining skills, experience, and confidence with ACE and then applied to the NPS job at a time when they were hiring.
What are your job responsibilities with NPS? I am a maintenance worker for the National Park Service, San Juan Natl Historic Site. My main responsibilities include repairing historic structures, building concrete columns, welding, fencing, operating a circular saw and keeping up with maintenance of the park in a safe, efficient, manner. In the summer months I was the liaison between the NPS and the YCC crew.
Do you think ACE has helped prepare you for your future career? Definitely. ACE gave me the opportunity to work with them, learn new skills, gain valuable experience, and get exposure by working closely with NPS staff.
group-photoWhat are your future goals? I would like to continue learning as much as I can to grow and develop into a leader with the National Park Service. In 5 years I hope to be in a leadership position in the National Park Service. I would love to work with young adults and mentor them.
How has ACE helped to shape who you are personally and professionally? ACE helped me with everything. The crew leaders taught me technical skills, responsibility, leadership, and good work habits. I learned great teamwork. If it wasn’t for ACE, I would not be working with the National Park Service.
What advice can you offer to future corps members who are looking to get into the conservation field? Never say “no”. You need to be flexible and open to any type of work and any type of project. You need to be inspired to work for ACE and gain skills to have a good experience in ACE and be competitive for federal jobs.kenneth-prepping-for-new-trail

*If you are an ACE Alumni and are interested in sharing your Corps to Career story please contact Susie Jardine at susie@usaconservation.org

ACE EPIC | Earth Connections Camp

ACE EPIC Interns based in Moab, UT recently supported a BLM-sponsored Earth Connections Camp in nearby Bluff, UT. The camp is designed to immerse Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) into Native Culture.

Range Management Intern Jacob Garcia served as point of contact for the ACE team, with ACE EPIC Interns Audrey Pefferman, Taylor Hohensee, and Robert Ford joining the team to assist the various resource professionals and camp staff. The ACE Interns’ primary role was to assist representatives from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) setting up and implementing various hydrology-related activities, and providing general support to ensure the event progressed as planned.

NRCS hydrologist Nathaniel Todea lines out his survey crew at Earth Connections Camp in Bluff, UT. Photo by BOR

The camp was a huge success, and feedback for ACE EPIC Interns was extremely positive. Jeanette Shackelford, the BLM-Utah Youth Program Lead, and Dr. Chuck Foster of the Utah State Board of Education, American Indian Education Specialist Title VII Programs, shared the following:

“On behalf of the rest of the Earth Connections Camp team, I want to tell you how much we appreciate the time and invaluable contributions the ACE interns provided to our American Indian science and culture camp last week. Jacob Garcia, Audrey Pefferman, Taylor Hohensee, and Robert Ford went above and beyond what was asked of them, and they were such a pleasure to work with. The agency instructors were very pleased with their work ethic and respectful, positive attitudes.”

“The Earth Connections Camp team continues to be impressed by the caliber of interns recruited by ACE, and ACE’s willingness to support our youth programs. Thank you to the [BLM] Field Office for loaning out the crew during this busy time of year. We look forward to working together on similar programs in the years to come.”

We thank the ACE EPIC Interns for all their hard work making the Earth Connections Camp a success, and positively promoting ACE’s willingness to support youth programs.

Earth Connections Bluff group photo. Bluff, UT. Photo by Bureau of Reclamation

Earth Connections Camp

Earth Connections Camp was launched in 2010 through a partnership between the Bureau of Land Management-Utah and the Utah State Board of Education Title VII Program. The idea is to provide a one-day natural science and cultural heritage camp for urban American Indian youth from the Salt Lake Valley, as well as southern Utah. In alignment with federal youth initiatives, the goal was to expose youth to meaningful outdoor learning experiences that emphasized a holistic curriculum of natural resource science-based activities, higher education and career paths, indigenous language, tribal history and art. American Indian educators and agency experts serve as instructors and mentors. The partnership includes the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Urban Indian Center, the U.S. Forest Service, Utah school districts, American Conservation Experience, and Red Butte Garden, among many others. Earth Connections Camps benefit 50-60 youth participants ages K-12 each year. Click here to view a 2015 video produced by the Bureau of Reclamation:

ACE-interns-celebrate-success-at-the-Bureau-of-Reclamations-miniature-dam-building-station.-Bluff-UT.-Photo-by-BLM-UT.

ACE-interns-celebrate-success-at-the-Bureau-of-Reclamations-miniature-dam-building-station.-Bluff-UT.-Photo-by-BLM-UT.

Restoration | Bitter Lake NWR

A crew of 6 just finished a month long hitch doing restoration work at the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The Bitter Lake Refuge sits above an aquifer, running down from the Capitan Mountains to the west of Roswell NM, and eventually feeds into the Pecos River. ACE Corps member Peter Schaffer was part of the project and shared his experiences of the project.

Being monsoon season in the south west, the crew would watch storms form over the solitary peak outside of Roswell. Sadly, the rain rarely reached the refuge to cool the crew. However even though the rain was not always there to cool the crew, they did get to witness firsthand how the water falling in the northern range would be absorbed into the system, before being pushed up towards the surface forming brackish sinkholes and leached through spring-like vents and feeding creeks and rivers throughout the refuge. ACE Corps member Peter Schaffer stated that this refuge is “truly an unsuspecting place, and, as the refuge’s visitor center tour heavily emphasized, it really is an oasis in the desert. It may seem cliche, but a closer examination of the geographical properties of this place helped put this project’s importance in perspective for me.”

P1030586

The ACE crew worked with US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) refuge staff on many of the projects and began to understand how complex restoration work is. Peter explained: “Bitter Lake struck me as a great demonstration of how uniquely balanced the desert (or any ecosystem for that matter) can be for creating a plethora of life that has evolved in congruence with the terrain. The flora in the area love the brackish water; the bugs certainly don’t mind either. There are 5 endangered species on the [Bitter Lake] refuge, most of which live in and around these vents and sinkholes. They are dependent on the land and water with which they are so uniquely intertwined, and ACE’s efforts in the past few years have been within these areas, which had been heavily affected by invasive flora. While I have worked on other restoration projects that were in the early or middle stages of treatment, I began to see how this multi-year process of hard work can pay off in truly restoring and balancing these incredibly unique area around the refuge.”

P1030618

During the final days of the project, Corps members were able to plant native grasses along one of the creeks, and within the next year or two these species to proliferate. “It’s a good example of that tortoise/hare (or jack-rabbit) mentality, which has been hard for me to learn how to accomplish and improve upon while being in ACE. It seems that good restoration work requires an innately slow, careful touch in order to be successful. Missing a plant that can pollinate and spread seed over an area means that the end goal gets pushed back further. Treating ten miles of river in a day may sound good on a project report, but it may mean that the true goal of these kinds of projects was missed. I could see how ACE had fulfilled that necessity at Bitter Lake, and I hope that our crew continued in producing that high quality of work and diligence”, Peter added.

Thanks to the crew for their hard work on the project, and to Peter for taking the time to share his experiences.

Log Out | Dixie National Forest

ACE Utah’s crosscut sawyers recently teamed up to complete a complex log-out project on the Pine Valley Ranger District of Dixie National Forest. The project site was a wilderness trail that had been covered by dead and downed trees caused by an avalanche slide. The avalanche debris covered the trail and water tributary.

27270787712_acc73b59a6_k

Due to the sheer volume of debris, the Forest Service was considering the use of explosive to clear the way. This is not without complications, however, and therefore the Forest Service turned to ACE for help.

27367787985_501b0f759a_k

The ACE crew worked very hard to manually cut and remove all the logs, and the then rebuild the trail tread. Being in a wilderness area the use of chainsaws was prohibited and thus the crew used crosscut saws to complete the project.

The crew was led by David Frye who now heads off to work for ACE California in the Inyo National Forest. AmeriCorps member Brice Koach commented that his favorite part of the project was “practicing his crosscut and axe skills all while spending time with a great crew.”

27270469292_2b814059c8_k

Rock work | Rogers Lake (Part I)

A crew from ACE Arizona partnered with Coconino County to build a stone staircase to an overlook of Rogers Lake County Natural Area, just south of ACE Arizona’s home city of Flagstaff. This crew is also responsible for the maintenance of two trails leading to the lake: the 2-Spot Trail and the Gold Digger Trail. The latter trail is named after 1890s folklore in which outlaws, on the run from the local sheriff, dug a hole in the then-frozen Rogers Lake and deposited their barrels of gold. To this day, people come treasure hunting — some even come from out of state — according to Geoffrey Gross, Natural Resource Supervisor for Coconino County Parks & Recreation.

Coconino County purchased the Rogers Lake County Natural Area in 2010 and began trail work to improve access for visitors in 2013. Although the lake often fills with water in the spring, it remains dry most of the year. “I think the goal is to make the area more accessible destination,” said Joel Marona, an ACE Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family (GOYFF) intern.

Geoffrey Gross said Coconino County Parks & Recreation is planning to have a grand opening of the overlook by the end of summer. Over the coming days we will feature a 3 part photostory on the progress of the project to construct the stone staircase at Rogers Lake.

Crew Strategizes leverage points with rock bar

1. Rogers Lake

The Rogers Lake project includes a variety of responsibilities, but the top priority is to construct a five-step staircase, providing an overlook to Lake Rogers, its wildlife, and a view of the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff. In this photos, the ACE Corps members strategize the best leverage points for adjusting the top stair with their rock bars.

Communicating with Project Partners

2. Rogers Lake

Project partner Geoffrey Gross, Natural Resource Supervisor at Coconino County Parks & Recreation, visits the ACE crew to check on the progress.

“This crew has been great to work with and has already accomplished a lot. We already knew ACE crews are really good at stonework – they’re our go-to for stonework — and thats important as want this staircase and overlook to be a showpiece of the area.”

Gross said the overlook will have interpretative signage and spotting scopes for wildlife viewing. Elk, deer, antelope and migrating waterfowl are frequently spotted in the area, Gross said.

Look out for Part II and Part III of this photostory on Friday June 17 and Monday June 20 – links will be posted on our Facebook page.

Rock work | Rogers Lake (Part II)

Part II of our photostory following the construction of a stone staircase to an overlook of Rogers Lake County Natural Area, just south of ACE Arizona’s home city of Flagstaff.

Breaking new ground

3. Rogers Lake

Sarah Komisar begins drilling the first of five holes, the initial stage of several in a process to crack the large bedrock that’s inhibiting the placement of anchors for the staircase. Komisar said this staircase is especially challenging because it needs to be aesthetically pleasing. Komisar described searching distant rock piles for potential steps — four feet wide and two feet back — as “shopping at the rock store.”

“I’ve done a lot of rock work since being at ACE” Komisar said. “It definitely tests my patience, cause it’s so time-consuming and it’s just problem-solving all day. But I think it’s the most rewarding type of trail work, because there’s such a massive result. It’s pretty satisfying.”

Placing the feathers

4. Rogers Lake

Joel Bulthuis places feathers into the holes drilled by Sarah Komisar. Once the feathers are securely wedged into the rock, the crew will repeatedly hammer them with a single-jack, gradually stressing, and eventually cracking the bedrock.

Checking on Progress

5. Rogers Lake

ACE Corps member Joel Marona assesses the headway made on the rock staircase. Marona said that for him, this project has been a “dream hitch,” requiring technical rock work, tread work and even some chain-sawing. “I started conservation work so young, and I idolized the culture and crew leaders, but I thought it was just seasonal. Coming to ACE and being able to work in conservation year-round — it’s a dream come true.”

Part 1 of this photostory can be found here and Part 3 here.

Rock Work | Rogers Lake (Part III)

Part III of our photostory following the construction of a stone staircase to an overlook of Rogers Lake County Natural Area, just south of ACE Arizona’s home city of Flagstaff.

Feather Pitch

6. Rogers Lake

Sarah Komisar laughs as she strikes the feathers with the single-jack. Each feather has a different pitch when struck. “It’s so beautiful!” she exclaims.

Rock Chiseling

7a. Joel chiseling

After a team effort to crack the bedrock, Joel Bulthuis chisels away at the base.

Establishment of a rock staircase

8. Rogers Lake

Within just a few hours, the bedrock is mostly chiseled away, Caryn Ross and Nikki Andresen work on crushing rock beneath the third stair, for the foundation. This is Andresen’s last hitch. She said she’s most sad to be leaving her crew mates – her friends and newfound community, but that she’s grateful for her time at ACE.

“Feeling the public’s appreciation for what we do was probably the most rewarding part,” Andresen said. “In Yarnell [another ACE Arizona project], people would come up to us and say, ‘Thank you so much for building this memorial trail.’ In Apache [Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest], they’d come up and say they were so grateful for our help to save the Douglas Fir Trees. Here — I plan on coming back some day. And I know I’ll use these trails and see other people using them… I know I’ll be back.”

Drilling and crushing

9. Rogers Lake

The crew continues work on the staircase, facing Rogers Lake. We’ll revisit this story once again when the trail is finished!

Kochi Removal | Pecos National Historic Park

A crew of six Corps Members successfully finished a project at Pecos National Historic Park, a park unit that preserves the ruins of Pecos (Ciquique) Pueblo close to Santa Fe, New Mexico

The aim of the project was to mechanically remove Kochia scoria, often referred to as Kochia, a large annual herb native to Eurasia. Within the United States, Kochia is an invasive species, particularly in the desert plains of the south west. Kochia is able to rapidly spread and competes with native vegetation for nutrients, light, and soil moisture. Furthermore, Kochia releases chemicals into the soil that can suppress the growth other plants, preventing the native plants from germinating.

P1030856

While at Pecos NHS, the crew learned about the importance of restoring the park’s land in order to preserve the archaeological sites which included pottery shards and burial sites. To contribute to this restoration effort, the Corps Members used brush cutters to remove the Kochia. After 8 day of hard work the crew had covered 7.48 acres of the park, which had about 80% invasive coverage.

The crew’s favorite part of the week was working with the knowledgeable NPS staff who constantly provided them with information on the culture of the people who once inhabited the land we were working on, allowing us to put the restoration work into context.

P1030911

Where are they now | Chase Kane

In the first installment of ‘ACE Alums – Where are they now?’ we feature an interview with Chase Kane, a former AmeriCorps 450 hour Corpsmember who now works as a Facility Supervisor for Loudoun County Parks & Recreation.

[ACE] What is your background? Where are you from?
[I’m from Northern Virginia, and I go to Northern Virginia Community College. I’m an International Studies major. 


What motivated or inspired you to be in conservation?
I became interested in conservation and environmental work after I decided I didn’t want to be a computer science major. It’s my goal to find a career in which I will be able to travel, and work outdoors.


How did you find ACE?
I found ACE through a google search, I was seeking environmental internships/outdoor work.


What was your favorite aspect of being and ACE corpsmember?
My favorite aspect of being an ACE corps member was the travel. I had the fortune to do a lot of travel during my 450 hour term. I traveled to Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee with ACE. Not only did I travel all across the U.S, but with ACE I was able to meet people in the National Park Service, Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management. I was able to glean a wealth of knowledge from the connections ACE provided me with, and received multiple references.


ACE SouthEast Alum Cave Trail Crew (2)

What was your favorite hitch and why?
My favorite hitch was the Great Smoky Mountains trail crew. The hitch was rewarding in every regard. On that crew, I learned the basics of building trail. I know how to cross cut, level tread, outslope, build Czech steps and stairs, and use a chisel and power chisel. Additionally, we performed a two-mile hike in uphill and our progress was very visible. Every day on our way to work we walked past all of our previous progress, and the progress our other crews had made before us. That alone was encouraging and inspiring.

What tasks did you train for and participate in while on projects? Which was your favorite and why?
To be fair, I didn’t undergo much training. I was trained in herbicide, but I was never sent on a herbicide project. Also, because I was on a 450 hour term; I was not trained in chainsaw usage.


What was one of the biggest challenges?
The most challenging part of working with ACE was keeping a positive mental attitude and going without technology for extended periods of time. The work days could be long and the work demanding, but it was a very valuable experience. ACE really helped strengthen my patience and furthered my teambuilding skills.


What are your future goals?
My future goals are to land a position with a nonprofit or government agency in the field of community outreach. It’s my desire to bring communities together, and do a bit of traveling while doing it. I’m also considering a pursuing a career in environmental advocacy.


Estes Park CO 1

Please expand on what NPS Academy is, where it’s located, how long you will attend, and any info pertinent to this new phase of your life?
The NPS Academy is an internship program which seeks to reach underrepresented communities and integrate them into the NPS to promote diversity. Orientation for this program was held in two locations Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska. Approximately 20 students were selected to attend orientation. The Orientation is a weeklong event. During the orientation we were introduced to all of the major depertments in Grand Teton National Park including: Emergency Medical Services, Interpretation, Wildlife Management, Public Affairs, and Human Resources. Furthermore, once accepted I was assisted by the Student Conservation Association in finding my next summer internship.


Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Goals in Conservation for the future?
In five years I see myself holding a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs and most likely continuing my service work with the Peace Corps. If I’m not in the Peace Corps., I’ll most likely be working in a Visitor Services Center within the National Park Service. 


Do you think this position has helped prepare you for your future career?

My experience with ACE has significantly bolstered my resume, and made me more qualified for jobs. Thanks in part to ACE, I currently work as a Facility Supervisor for Loudoun County Parks & Recreation. The experience I have gained from ACE has provided me insight, qualifications and direction for my career aspirations. I was honestly surprised at how many government organizations and nonprofits expressed how they valued my affiliation with AmeriCorps.

What do you feel sets ACE apart from other organizations? How has ACE helped to shape who you are personally and professionally?
What sets ACE aside from other organizations is how they value you. It sounds cheesy, but ACE places a lot of consideration into the lives of each corps. member. If a corps. member is dissatisfied with the projects they’ve been assigned, ACE will be earnest in making accommodations based on performance. Additionally, the majority of crew leaders appear to have been promoted from within. Which means the leadership is familiar with the majority of challenges each crew member might face.
Personally, ACE gave me newfound confidence. With ACE I performed grueling work in a number of outdoor environments. Not only did the work strengthen my determination, but now no task seems impossible. When performing trail work an individual can quickly learn that the majority of difficult problems can be solved by reconsidering your perspective. It’s refreshing to be able to confidently explain in job interviews how you performed with a crew to confront and resolve difficult problems. 


What advice can you offer to future corps members who are looking to get into the conservation field?
To get into the conservation field I’d suggest making a plan, and having direction. Find your dream job and work to acquire its qualifications. I sincerely believe ACE is a great place to get started. You’ll meet your potential employers, and potentially be offered a job. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and do research. Utilize your resources.

Selfie (2)