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Gettysburg National Military Park

Since 2016, ACE Southeast has been working seasonally with Gettysburg National Military Park. Located in southern Pennsylvania, Gettysburg National Military Park protects and interprets the location of the battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. The park contains over 43,000 artifacts from the 1863 battle, as well as a historic cemetery. The goal of the work being performed in the park is to restore the land and structures to a historically accurate depiction of what the soldiers would have experienced back in 1863. 

In previous years, the crews have taken part in invasive species removal, maintaining and stabilizing park trails and building and re-establishing wooden fences and stone walls. This summer, the crew has been led by ACE crew leader, Rebecca Speckenbach and the work has primarily been focused on re-establishing the wooden fences around the park and brush cutting the grounds. The fences are primarily used now to contain cattle.
Last summer the crew worked on repairing rock-wall structures that played a large role in the outcome of the battle of Gettysburg. The walls served as protection for soldiers on both sides of the conflict but have degraded by varying degrees over the years. In the upcoming weeks, the crew will be shifting from fence repair to rock work before returning to their base in Asheville, NC.

https://www.nps.gov/gett/index.htm

San Juan National Historic Site | Puerto Rico

In 2015, ACE Puerto Rico was established through a partnership with San Juan National Historic Site. The site is managed by the National Park Service and its’ mission is to protect and interpret colonial-era forts, bastions, powder houses, and three-fourths of the old city wall. The ACE crew primarily works at the two forts, Castillo San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro. 

Due to the sites’ location in Puerto Rico’s capital, and given its’ great historical value, the site receives over a million visitors each year. The partnership began to assist the site in maintaining the facilities, including cleaning litter from the grounds. Since the onset of this partnership, the work has expanded into trail building and historic restoration. A new nature trail now exists around the perimeter of the old city wall that ends at a spectacular view of the ocean. 

A daily, ongoing part of the maintenance division’s duties at San Juan National Historic Site is preserving and repairing the two-and-a-half miles of fortress walls and three forts. Hurricane Maria accelerated the natural erosion that takes place from rain and wind and has caused a higher demand for repairs.

The NPS staff have been conducting an in-depth study of the historic materials used to build the walls including sandstone, limestone, and brick, as well as learning the traditional construction techniques used in the original construction of the forts. This work is a finetuned science since modern materials, such as cement, are not compatible with the original structure. Using a mixture of lime, sand, water, and crushed brick and traditional application techniques, the NPS staff have been gracious enough to take ACE corps members under their wing and teach them this invaluable skill. 

Several of ACE members have moved onto NPS positions, including the NPS staff member pictured above, Kenneth De Graciani. “That is our goal, that we will work alongside the ACE crew members, train them, and then hire them on with the National Park Service,” stated Jose Santiago. ACE is so thankful that our corps members are treated as members of the team at the San Juan National Historic Site and are continuing to gain skills and experiences through this partnership. 

ACE Great Basin Ranger Corps | Great Basin National Park – Baker, NV

Since 2016, ACE Youth & Community Conservation Programs division has partnered with Great Basin National Park in Baker, NV to engage local teens (ages 15 to 18) in developing tangible professional and interpersonal skills in conservation through the Great Basin Ranger Corps program. Established in 1986, the National Park is named after the Great Basin: a collection of 90 basins located in the mountains between the Sierra Nevada and the Wasatch Mountain ranges. Great Basin National Park has a lengthy cultural history, with occupation spanning over the last 12,000 years, along with an abundance and variety of natural features including desert, mountain, glacier, and cave ecosystems. The park is home to 238 bird species, 73 mammal species, 18 fish species, and over 800 plant species, among others.

Members Simon, Kara, and Kayli join Team Leadership Fellow Andrea for a crew photo at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center.

Most recently in 2019, four ACE members and one ACE Team Leadership Fellow worked within Great Basin National Park to assist in different areas, including cultural resources, visitor center services, and education & interpretation. Members often led multiple daily visitor tours through the Lehman Caves and assisted biologists in conducting biota surveys for proper humidity, air quality, and soil temperature in the caves. Along with roving the trails to provide park information to guests, the ACE Ranger Corps team took turns working in the Visitor Center, preparing inventory and answering visitor questions. 

Team Leadership Fellow Andrea assists in setting up a telescope for an Astronomy Programs event in the Park.

Several times during the 320-hour term, Ranger Corps members had the opportunity to assist biologists in monitoring nearby fish populations through electrofishing. This process involves using two electrodes to pulse a direct current through the water, temporarily stunning nearby fish in order to take measurements such as species, length, and weight. Within minutes, the fish return to their original state with no lasting harm. Electrofishing also allows for the calculation of species density, abundance, and composition in the sample area.

Member Kara holds a captured fish while on an electrofishing outing.

 

An Interview with Great Basin Ranger Corps Team Leadership Fellow, Andrea Wagner: Along with tours and guest interaction, Team Leadership Fellow Andrea worked specifically to help organize member outings, update the Park’s events website, set up telescopes for night time Astronomy Programs, and conduct an annual snow survey to determine water content from a core sample. She even worked with biologists and ecologists to map out a closed section of the Lehman Caves!

 

Q: What is your favorite part about working with Ranger Corps?

 

A: The most enjoyable experience for me participating in the Ranger Corps program has been the opportunity to act as a leader and mentor to the younger members. Last season when I was part of an EPIC internship I was the only ACE member in the park, and so it has been a lot of fun having others around this summer season.

 

Q: What have you learned during your time in Ranger Corps?

 

A: Being a Crew Leader for Ranger Corps has taught me the value of having and being part of a team, the importance of intentional leadership, and the incredible fun it is to work for A.C.E!

 

Q: Do you have any plans for after the program?

 

A: I hope to continue working for the National Park Service in some capacity, either in interpretation or perhaps in natural resources.

Mapping out an off-route section of the Lehman Caves.

Member Simon uses a dip net, bucket, and safety gear while assisting in fish monitoring via electrofishing.

 

For more information about the history of Great Basin National Park, along with current events, please visit: https://www.nps.gov/grba/index.htm

NPS Academy, 2019

Every year a new group of individuals from all over the United States is selected to take part in the NPS Academy.  With varying backgrounds, identities, and experiences these folks initially converge in Grand Teton National Park, a unique place fitting for the unique mission these participants are about to delve into.  In early spring, ACE the NPS and Teton Science Schools co-host an orientation with the purpose of participants getting an immersive understanding of the Agency and community they will work alongside the following summer in a National Park.  The objective of this innovative summer internship experience, paired with spring orientation, is to introduce and connect diverse students, ages 18 to 25 to career opportunities with the NPS.

In 2019, NPS Academy at Grand Teton partnered with American Conservation Experience, Emerging Professional Intern Corps (EPIC).  At ACE EPIC, we support college students and young adults transitioning in their career with professional development opportunities in natural and cultural resource management alongside federal and NGO agencies.  Partnering with the NPS Academy has been an exciting opportunity!  Throughout the season, ACE supported fifteen participants in various internships across the nation.  Pictured below are just a few of the internship opportunities and experiences had through NPS Academy.

Figure 1: Snowshoeing at Orientation in March, 2019.

Figure 2: You’ll need sunglasses for winter in a place like Jackson, Wyoming. High elevation, remoteness, and deep snow can create conditions requiring significant preparation for the outdoor extremes.

Figure 3: Water sampling and fisheries monitoring are some of the many exciting opportunities and wide-ranging internships of NPS Academy.

Figure 4: Trail work is really important for erosion control and hiker safety in a high-use recreation area like Grand Teton National Park.

Figure 5: Swearing in junior rangers!

Figure 6: Data entry is an important component to tracking your efforts and outcomes of your internship.

Figure 7: It is hard to complain about the view here!

Figure 8: Working with local youth and student groups is always a blast.

Figure 9: Trail work can include cutting stone! Did you ever imagine that?

Figure 10: NPS Academy 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Canyon National Park | North Kaibab Trail

Every year our crews tie up their boots and head into the Grand Canyon National Park. The Grand Canyon was one of the first project partners ACE ever had and our partnership continues to strengthen and grow as time goes on. This year our Southwest crew had the opportunity to go backcountry on the North Rim of the Canyon. The North Kaibab trail is the most strenuous route out of the canyon with steep switchbacks and stunning views. Many who visit the park find it surprising that, despite only being 24 miles from the south rim to the north rim as the crow flies, it actually takes about four hours to drive.On a Wednesday morning, our crew led by Carina Zenti geared up and began hiking into the canyon on the North Kaibab Trail. “Part of what makes working in the canyon so different from working in other areas is the sheer amount of people that visit. We get more compliments on our work here and the visitors are always really grateful that we are here maintaining the trails,” said Zenti. The canyon receives more than 5 million visitors each year, making it the second most visited park in the US. Of those 5 million, about 80% will hike at least one to two miles into the canyon and about 11% will take the trails to the bottom. This amount of foot traffic in addition to the natural course of erosion in the canyon calls for constant trail maintenance.
The ACE crew spent seven days camped approximately five miles into the canyon. Each day they performed cyclical maintenance on the trail which includes fixing and improving drains, clearing loose rocks from the trail, smoothing the tread and working on any other general issues with the trail that need attention. The crew also worked with the NPS staff to guard the trail while they worked on a rock slide. It is always a privilege for our corps members to work in the canyon alongside the National Park Service staff.

 

https://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm

Corps to Careers | Jessie Snow

 

If you have ever wondered how to land the dream job of being a park ranger, we have the video for you! Our Corps to Career series highlights federal employees who got their start with ACE. Jessie Snow started with ACE as a corpsmember in Arizona, moved up to an EPIC internship in the Great Smoky Mountains and is now working as an NPS Education Ranger and will be leading an ACE YCC crew this summer while using her education award from ACE to complete her master’s degree! Talk about full circle! Watch the video below for her full story and to experience the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains landscape!

Mammoth Cave National Park | First Creek Trail

This spring and summer ACE Southeast is continuing to work in partnership with Mammoth Cave National Park. While this stunning national park is known for its expansive cave system and its’ role in American history, it also has dozens of front and backcountry trails for visitors to enjoy above ground.


This year the crew is working on the lower half of the First Creek Trail for approximately six weeks. The crew is being led by ACE crew leader Jacob Graham. Prior to the ACE crew working on the trail, the conditions were rocky and steep, with many exposed roots and washouts. The erosion caused by these conditions were negatively impacting both hikers and horseback riders using the trail.

The crew worked to improve the trail by putting in water bars, drains, and a bridge over a creek crossing.  The bridge was built with both hikers and equestrians in mind. ACE is proud to be continuing work with this incredible national park!

 

https://www.nps.gov/maca/learn/news/first-creek-trail-work.htm

 

 

Bryce Canyon | Forest Thinning

ACE has taken part in multiple forest thinning projects across the Southwest over the last several years. Each project has had a similar objective in mind: wildfire prevention. Each year wildfires have increased in severity and occurrences, and it has become more crucial than ever to remove the lower level fuels that allow them to become more severe.

Fall of 2017 proved to be a very busy time for our ACE Utah crews in regards to fuels reduction. Crews performed forest thinning in beautiful, Bryce Canyon National Park, for an eight-day project. 

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

Forest thinning helps to prevent wildfires from becoming catastrophic. ACE’s part in this aspect of wildfire prevention is to remove any trees that would serve as ladder fuel. Ladder fuel is a firefighting term for live or dead vegetation that allows a fire to climb up from the landscape or forest floor into the tree canopy. This means cutting down any tree species that are easier to catch fire, trees of a specific diameter, and removing any dead or down trees.

The crew comes off of a lunch break at one of the canyon's overlooks.

The crew comes off of a lunch break at one of the canyon’s overlooks.

In Bryce Canyon National Park the ACE crew was led by crew leader, Brandon Lester. The primary objective of this project was to protect limber pines and bristlecone pines as well as Douglas firs and Ponderosa pines. Douglas firs and Ponderosa pines are being protected because they tend to be more resilient against wildfires. By keeping these more resilient species and thinning more flammable species, the forest becomes less prone to catastrophic wildfires. The bristlecone pines are being protected because in this area they tend to be very old and the limber pines are being protected because they are a more rare species. By selecting certain species ACE is working to create a healthier pine forest.

 

Crew members swamp branches and trees that have been cut into piles for prescribed burns that will be conducted by the parks service.

Crew members swamp branches and trees that have been cut into piles for prescribed burns that will be conducted by the parks service.

To do this the crew was reducing the number of flammable species such as white firs and some of the Douglas firs that could potentially become ladder fuels. The crew was also targeting trees that were growing in clumps and trees that were growing too close to the species they were trying to protect. For example, the crew was not directly targeting Douglas firs but if there were any Douglas firs growing too close to a Ponderosa pine, then the crew would remove that tree.

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During this single eight-day project the crew aimed to thin approximately three acres within the park. ACE is incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to return to work in this beautiful national park and look forward to our continued partnership with the National Park Service and our friends at Bryce Canyon National Park.

For more information on Bryce Canyon National Park click here: Bryce Canyon National Park

 

 

 

 

ACE YCC and EPIC assist NPS with a Pollinator Field Research Study at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

 

In summer 2017, four local high school students from Akron, Ohio participating in the six-week ACE Youth Conservation Corps program (YCC) joined ACE EPIC Intern Carlyn Mitchell at Cuyahoga Valley National Park to assist the National Park Service (NPS) with a variety of natural resource management projects there. NPS has produced a wonderful video series called the “Outside Science (Inside Parks)” initiative.This video showcases the pollinator field research study. Click here to learn more about the research taking place at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Grand Canyon National Park – Trail Maintenance

One of ACE’s longest running partnerships is with the Grand Canyon National Park. This past summer and in to the fall ACE crews worked on several of the many trails in and around the canyon.

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

ACE had two crews working on two different trails in the canyon, the Bright Angel and the Hermit trail. The crew on Bright Angel was led by ACE crew leader, Hannah Baskin and the Hermit trail crew was led by ACE crew leader, Stephanie Gonzales. Both of these trails experience heavy foot traffic in the summer months. In addition to hikers, the Bright Angel trail also supports mules tours as well as pack mules throughout the year.

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

Both crews were performing cyclical maintenance on the trails. This usually encompasses widening tread, clearing drains, reinforcing water bars, brushing and clearing the trail of any obstacles. The canyon trails require attention all year long because of the constant erosion that happens within the canyon walls.

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

On the Bright Angel trail the crew was performing general maintenance as well as assisting the National Parks Service trail crew with a rock work project. Some of the crew members were on patrol to make sure that hikers were safe while the work was being completed and other crew members got to try their hand at the rock drill.

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On the Hermit trail the crew was using a grip hoist to move some large boulders from the trail. Using rock bars the crew was able to move boulders out of the main trail and repair parts of the trail that were eroded by flooding.

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

Going into the fall ACE crews will continue working further down the Bright Angel Trail and eventually to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. Our staff and corps members continue to feel grateful that they are able to serve in and contribute to the protection of this park.

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

Sunset Crater National Monument – Lava Fields

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

ACE Arizona partnered with the National Parks Service at Sunset Crater National Monument. Sunset Crater is a cinder cone volcano that is located north of Flagstaff, AZ. Through the end of September the crew constructed a trail through the lava flow within the park.

The crew is being led by ACE crew leader, Tim Beck. This is a completely different type of trail building for the corps members.  A typical trail involves working with pliable dirt however, in this case the crew has had to learn to work with lava flow remains which is hard volcanic rock.

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The ground in this area is comprised of lava rock that is unstable and dangerous to walk upon directly. To lay the foundation for the trail the crew begins by moving the lava rocks to fill in any gaps and cracks. Using double and single jacks the crew is crushing in lava rocks to flatten the ground into a trail. By rearranging lava rocks and spreading rock gravel the crew is creating a trail that sits several inches below the lava flow. The trail will allow visitors to walk amongst the lava flow which has not been accessible in the past.

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Trail work at Navajo National Monument

Repairs to Tsegi Point Trail in Navajo National Monument are a unique and exciting project for ACE Arizona. Navajo National Monument is located within the northwest portion of the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona and was established to protect three well-preserved Anasazi cliff dwellings. Like much of northern Arizona, the Navajo National Monument area is composed of sandstone that is apt to lead to rocks falls and landslides due to winter freeze and thaw conditions.

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Partnering with the National Park Service, our work here involved creating a bypass for an area of trail that had been blocked by boulders that eroded from the surrounding canyon walls and fell into the trail. The crew was lead by ACE trails trainer Jack McMullin and ACE crew leader Andrew Greenwell.

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To create the reroute the crew used grip hoists, rock bars and patient teamwork to remove rocks from the new section of trail. We also built rock walls to support the new tread and to insure that the tread is wide enough for hikers to pass safely. Tsegi Point Trail overlooks Tsegi Canyon and the crew agrees that it is certainly one of the most scenic places ACE has been lucky enough to work in.

This was the second of three projects that ACE is working in the area.

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Pinnacles National Park hosts the Pinnacles Ranger Corps Program

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Not far from Hollister, California, ACE has partnered with Pinnacles National Park to host a “Ranger Corps” Program. The initiative started in 2009 and is one of the few of its kind. Pinnacles National Park currently has four Ranger Corps members, Elijah Valladarez, Alex Diaz, Conner Stephens and Ryan Robledo. All of the members are local youth (ages 18-25) who will complete 300 hours in the park over their weekends assisting park professionals and learning about the National Parks Service.

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“I like that I have been able to work in my community and this experience has taught me to really appreciate the area that I grew up in,” explained Alex Diaz, Soledad resident. The program runs on the weekends and aims to mentor the interns in different directions through working closely with the park’s rangers and other ACE members participating at Pinnacles.

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Elijah Valladaraz is studying criminal justice and explained, “since I am interested in law enforcement the park does its best to get me around the park’s security rangers.” Alex Diaz expressed a similar point, that he was focusing on botany in school and gets to go out and work with the park’s vegetation and restoration team.

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Conner Stephens and Ryan Robledo are both in their senior year of high school. Conner is hoping to study something along the lines of geology in college. “This position has improved my social skills but it has also taught me a lot about basic geology and plants and has improved my overall mood,” explained Conner, “the highlight for me is waking up each morning and being in a National Park and being able to work outside, whether that is assisting the vegetation and condor crews, or just helping park incoming visitors.”

Conner Stephens explains the difference between condors and turkey vultures to the park's visitors while working the nature center desk.

Conner Stephens explains the difference between condors and turkey vultures to the park’s visitors while working the nature center desk.

Paul Mondragon is a part time Park Ranger and runs the program in the park on the weekends. Paul expressed his dedication to the program and stated, “I like seeing the kids grow and become more comfortable talking with the people who come to visit the park.”  Paul has been working with the program for the last five years and works closely with the corps members.

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The Ranger Corps also provides CPR and first aid training in addition to the hands on experience of working in the National Park. The program aims to open doors for the local youth into the world of environmental stewardship.

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Carriage Trail Restoration at Moses Cone Memorial Park

ACE partnered with the National Park Service and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation for an 18-week restoration project at Moses Cone Memorial Park. This national historic site receives 250,000 visitors a year and is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway near the town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina. The park preserves the country estate of Moses Cone, a textile entrepreneur, naturalist and conservationist who lived in the late 1800s. It encompasses 3,500 acres including 25 miles of carriage trails now used for hiking and horseback riding, as well as a twenty-three-room mansion called Flat Top Manor.

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The primary objective of this project was to restore the 25 miles of carriage roads to their historic width. Lead by Corey Harrison, the crew accomplished this by brushing back vegetation with mechanized equipment including pole saws, chainsaws, and a wood chipper. By protecting and restoring the cultural landscape at Moses Cone, the ACE crew is providing sufficient width for carriages, horses, hikers, maintenance equipment, law enforcement patrols and rescue vehicles.

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#IamACE – EPIC Edition – Kyle Tibor [video]

Meet EPIC Intern, Kyle Tibor. Kyle has been interning out of Pinnacles National Park’s Condor Program. Pinnacles National Park joined the California Condor Recovery Program as a release and management site in 2003. The park currently co-manages 86 wild condors in central California with Ventana Wildlife Society. Thank you to our partners at Pinnacles for allowing us to see the amazing work you are doing with these majestic creatures. Pinnacles is located east of the Salinas Valley in Central California. For more information on Pinnacles Condor Program go to: https://www.nps.gov/pinn/learn/nature/condors.htm

Garrapata State Park – Big Sur, California

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pinnacles National Park – Jawbone Canyon – EPIC Intern Team works on Vegetation and Restoration

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In Pinnacles National Park ACE currently has two EPIC interns working the with the park’s Vegetation and Restoration team. The park’s restoration team is lead by Park Ranger Mike Shelley with the  main objective to restore and protect native plant species and to maintain the landscape.

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Joshua Mosebach and Karina Garcia (ACE EPIC Interns) of the restoration team take part in native seed collecting, planting, monitoring and research. The internship is currently six weeks into a twenty-one week program in the park. “I’ve learned a lot about working in the federal government and the park service during the last few weeks,” explained Karina, “I didn’t know that the park conducts research and works with native american tribes.”  While Karina is still determining what path she would like to pursue, she explained that she has been able to explore a variety of different career paths within the National Parks Service during her time in the park.

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During the week of April 24th, 2017 the team was working in Jawbone Canyon on the west side of Pinnacles National Park. A new trail has been slated to go through the canyon and through a section of Italian thistle, an invasive species. It is crucial for the invasive plants to be removed from the trails, as  “the seeds will attach to hikers boots and pant legs and spread to other areas of the park,” Mike Shelley explained during his introduction to invasive species removal with a local Native American tribe.

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The park has been working with the Amah Mutsun Land Trust since 2009 on various local projects. The Amah Mutsun Land Trust group came out with the team to work on the removal of this area of Italian Thistle. There are two areas in the park that have cultural significance to the tribe because the areas contain deer grass and white root sage. These are plants that are used for weaving by the tribe. The park and tribe worked together to have the first prescribed burn of deer sage since the mission period.dsc_1246

ACE AZ – Grand Canyon National Park – South Kaibab Trail

ACE Arizona had a crew working in Grand Canyon National Park this past February. This was a two part project for our corps members. For the first part of the week the crew worked on clearing a rock slide on the Bright Angel Trail Project.

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Upon completion of the rock slide clean up efforts, the crew then hiked down to Phantom Ranch via the South Kaibab Trail where they stayed for the remainder of the project to do cyclical maintenance on the trail. The crew had the special opportunity to camp along the Colorado River with the NPS crew.

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The South Kaibab Trail is one of the main access routes to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon and frequently used by the parks mule teams. The crew worked on the lower half mile section of trail leading up to the Black Bridge.

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The crew was lead by David Vayhinger, who has worked on approximately eight different Grand Canyon projects in the past. David taught the crew how to clear water bars on the trail. Water bars are pertinent to the longevity of the trail because they direct water down the trail to the drainage points. Water bars and drains prevent the trail from becoming eroded which is crucial in the canyon because it is constantly being shaped by these natural forces.

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At the end of the week the crew worked on clearing the River Trail which runs along the Colorado River and hiked up to the rim on the second to last day to  assist with general grounds maintenance along the rim of the canyon.

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For some of the crew members it was their first time seeing and working in the Grand Canyon. Many thanks to our friends at the National Parks Service for allowing us to serve in this natural wonder of the world.

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ACE Arizona – Grand Canyon National Park – Bright Angel Trail

32095829134_9a1e4b74c5_h-1This past February ACE Arizona had a crew working in the Grand Canyon with the National Parks Service. The crew was led by ACE crew leader David Vayhinger. The crew spent the first two days of the project working a mile and a half down the Bright Angel Trail.32785443482_5d691e1028_h-1

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The Bright Angel Trail is one of the most popular trails in the canyon with multiple checkpoints and camping sites along the way as it winds it way down to the Colorado River. The Bright Angel Trail is one of the main access trails to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon.

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The warming temperatures and ice melt cause rock slides to be more frequent during this time of year. The crew was assisting the Park Service rangers in removing one rock slide in particular that made the trail impassable to the park’s mules. Half of the crew assisted with the rock slide while the other half of the crew made their way down to three mile point, clearing the trail from smaller rock slides and repairing check dams.

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The main rock slide at the mile and a half checkpoint was one large rock that covered the width of the trail. The crew assisted by directing hiking traffic and helped break apart this large rock with steel rods and drills. The rock needed to be taken apart in sections and then the crew used the rock fragments to build a rock wall along the trail. This work is particularly challenging in the canyon because the trail contains many switch backs. This means that the crew needed to use extreme caution to not lose any rocks into the canyon because the trail continuously loops back underneath the work site.

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With the assistance of ACE, the National Parks Service crew was able to clear the trail and the parks’ mules were able to continue canyon tours as well as packing in supplies to Phantom Ranch. It is an honor for ACE corps members and staff to be able to contribute to the conservation of this incredible national park.

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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

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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

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