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ACE Announces The Departure Of President, Christopher Baker

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 9, 2018

Contact – Susie Jardine
Telephone – 928-226-6960
Address: 2900 N. Fort Valley Rd.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Email – susie@usaconservation.org
Website – www.usaconservation.org

Flagstaff, AZ, March 9, 2018 –

It is with deep appreciation and gratitude for his leadership and service that the Board of Directors announces Chris Baker’s departure as President and CEO of American Conservation Experience (ACE), effective June 30, 2018.

Chris founded ACE in August 2003 and under his guidance it has developed into a nationally recognized leader in the conservation community engaging thousands of young adults in the accomplishment of practical environmental restoration projects in America’s national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other public lands.

Although Chris will be greatly missed by the board, staff, corps members, and partners alike we wish him great success in his new endeavor as the co-founder of Conservation United Insurance (CUI), where he will continue to support and consult conservation corps and other nonprofit organizations across the nation.

We want to thank him for the 15 years of dedicated service as well as his inspirational leadership and mentorship which involved many significant accomplishments and contributions, including but not limited to:

  • Expanding ACE’s service footprint from a small office in Flagstaff, AZ to direct service in 42 states and 3 territories.
  • Growing the original staff of 3 to 75 full-time leaders in the conservation community.
  • Providing conservation opportunities for over 8,000 young adults (and counting), including 1,300 conservation corps members and interns in 2017 alone.
  • Contribution of over 3.5 million hours or 10,700 crew weeks of service on America’s public lands since 2004.
  • Placement of 1,859 members in the Corps Network AmeriCorps program in 2016-2017 with 1216 members serving in crew based placements, 641 serving in individual or internship placements.
  • Development of enduring, nationally-scaled partnerships with multiple federal land management agencies, including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service as well as AmeriCorps national service program programs under the state and national programs of the Corporation for National Community Service and others.
  • Development of dozens of federal, state, municipal, and nonprofit partnerships.

In the coming weeks, ACE’s Board of Directors will conduct a nationwide search to identify our new President and CEO.
http://www.usaconservation.org/ceo-position-announcement/

During this period of transition, we are fortunate for the continuity afforded by a great many talented and committed staff and board members.
Our team will work hard to ensure the seamless continuation of the professional field standards, support for its corps members and interns, and both the quality of work and the high degree of accountability that our stakeholders have come to associate with ACE.

We cannot adequately thank Chris enough for his vision, passion, enthusiasm, motivation and dedication. ACE emerges from Chris’s founding 15-year tenure stronger than ever, well prepared and excited for the next chapters, as we continue to harness the energy and idealism of the next generation of stewards of America’s public lands.

Brad Bippus, Chair
Board of Directors
American Conservation Experience
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From Chris Baker, President and Chief Executive Officer,
American Conservation Experience

After a decade and half with the American Conservation Experience (ACE),
I have submitted my resignation to the board in order to pursue new opportunities. The decision for my transition did not come easily as I am extremely proud of all that the American Conservation Experience has achieved and the colleagues and corps members who I have had the honor of working alongside over the last 15 years.

While I have a mix of emotions as I move into this next chapter of my career, as the Co-founder of Conservation United Insurance (CUI), I will be able to continue in the work that has become so important to me: helping to support the capacity of the corps industry as well as nonprofits in general from a new operational perspective.

I want to give my deepest gratitude to all who have been so supportive of the organization and of me personally and professionally over the years: staff, current and past ACE members/interns, board members, and, of course, our partners. Without all of you, the organization would not be as strong and vibrant as it is. I am so honored to have been the leader of this incredible organization and will watch with much excitement and anticipation as it makes strides in supporting and creating continued solutions for environmental restorations across the nation and US territories.

Sincerely,

Chris Baker

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ACE is grounded in the philosophy that cooperative labor on meaningful conservation projects fosters cross cultural understanding and operates in the belief that challenging volunteer service unites people of all backgrounds in common cause.

If you would like more information contact Susie Jardine at susie@usaconservation.org or 928-226-6960

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EPIC visits National Wildlife Refuges – A Journey of Exploration

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ACE-EPIC Director Shane Barrow and ACE’s newly hired U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Program Director, Kevin Sloan paid a recent visit to Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada to meet with Project Leader Christy Smith.  Kevin enjoyed a 30-year career with the FWS and recently retired before taking his new position with ACE-EPIC in Salt Lake City.

Kevin and Shane traveled 100 miles north of Las Vegas to visit the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), one of the refuges in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex.  This particular refuge has special significance for Kevin because, in the late 1990’s, he served as Pahranagat’s Refuge Manager.

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Kevin and Shane met with Pahranagat NWR Manager Rob Vinson to learn of the many habitats and infrastructure improvements that have been made at Pahranagat. These improvements include hydrologic restoration in Black Canyon and a new visitor center, which highlights the importance of the Pahranagat Valley to the Native American Tribes in the area as well as the importance of refuge habitats to migratory and resident birds including southwestern willow flycatcher and Sandhill crane.  Pahranagat NWR, the “place of many waters,” has supported human habitation for thousands of years and is one of a string of desert wetland “pearls,” providing critical habitat in this transition area of the Mojave and Great Basin deserts.

This was a significant journey of exploration for ACE-EPIC.  Kevin’s career experience in the FWS and his vast network of FWS contacts allow a very high level of immersion into FWS culture with a highlight on field-level conservation needs. This level of knowledge will enable ACE-EPIC to adapt to meet the future needs of the FWS as well as the needs of aspiring young talent seeking careers in conservation.

Our congratulations to both Christy and Rob on a job well done!  We look forward to providing many highly-qualified interns through our ongoing partnership with FWS to protect and enhance wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of all Americans but mainly for the benefit of younger generations of conservation stewards.

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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

 

 

 

 

Dry Lake Hills Forest Thinning

The past summer ACE Arizona partnered with the City of Flagstaff, the US Forest Service, the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project and the National Forest Foundation to complete an 18-week forest thinning project in the Coconino National Forest, in the Dry Lakes Hill Region. This area has not had previous fuels management, leaving it at high risk for future catastrophic wildfires and post-fire flood impacts. ACE is proud to share this video as a representation of the great work being done within our local community to help keep the city of Flagstaff a safe and healthy place to live and the wonderful collaborative efforts of our partners.

Thank you to our amazing partners who contributed to the making of this video

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.

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.

Coronado National Forest – Hamburg Trail

This past September ACE Arizona worked with Coronado National Forest Service on an eight day project to install wilderness signs.

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The area that the crew was working in is known as Ramsey Canyon. The high walls of the canyon provide a moist, cool environment in the midst of a desert. This environment allows for a range of biodiversity not found in many other places in Arizona. In any given spot you might see sycamores, maples, and columbines growing alongside desert plants such as cacti and agaves.  Ramsey Canyon is located southwest of Tucson, very close to the border of Mexico.

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The crew was led by ACE crew leader, Matt Donaldson. The main objective of this project was to remove and replace wilderness trail signs along the Hamburg Trail. These signs, that hikers may only spend a few seconds looking at, are crucial to the hikers experience of a trail. The reassurance of knowing you are hiking in the right direction and getting back on the right track if you aren’t greatly reduces the chances of search and rescue situations.

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The work behind these signs is a little bit more involved than you might imagine. The ACE crew started by finding the right size and shape juniper trees. Once the crew cut the right trees for the sign posts they removed the bark from the logs. Removing the bark helps preserve the sign posts for longer because the bark holds in moisture and causes rot. These logs are then carried up the trail by foot by ACE corps members. The crew then dug holes and leveled the posts in the ground and attached the signs. The last set of signs were estimated to have lasted about fifteen years on the trail and hopefully these signs will last just as long if not longer.

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Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial State Park

In 2016 ACE had the honor of partnering with Arizona State Parks to construct 3.5 miles of new trail in memory of the 19 hotshot firefighters who lost their lives in the Yarnell Hill Fire of 2013.

The Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial State Park is now open to hikers to walk the trail to the memorial and fatality site and to learn about wild fire prevention and the events of the Yarnell Hill Fire.

We would like to share this video as a representation of our ACE corps members and staff experience of working on this trail for the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

ACE would like to dedicate this video in memory of the 19 fallen firefighters who risked their lives to make others safe.

Video Courtesy of American Conservation Experience (JPlance)

 

Wilderness First Aid (WFA) trainings spots available!

Interested in gaining wilderness medicine training? Wilderness First Aid (WFA) is a great training opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts, trip leaders, or those interested in learning basics of backcountry medical care! WFA is a 16-hour long (two day) interactive, hands –on course that focuses on the basic skills of: Response and Assessment, Musculoskeletal Injuries, Environmental Emergencies, Survival Skills, Soft Tissue Injuries and Medical Emergencies. During the course, you will participate in classroom trainings supplemented with hands-on field practical field scenarios learning how to respond to the different medical situations. Upon completion of the 16-hour course, you will receive a SOLO WFA certification which is good for two years.   A large part of wilderness medicine is learning to improvise medical necessities (splints, padding for broken arms, for example) from the materials you have with you when you are outdoors. So, please bring your backpack with some equipment that you would normally have with you are outdoors, such as a backpack, fleece, sleeping pad/bag, bandana, etc.

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When: September 21st– 22nd, 2017, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Where: Corpus Christi, Texas (Course will take place at the RTA Staples Building – 602 N Staples St. Corpus Christi, TX 78401).

Who: The WFA Course will be taught by SOLO, a national leader in wilderness medicine and is hosted by American Conservation Experience (ACE), a nonprofit conservation corps.

Course details: The course will cost: $160 and which includes the course tuition and books as well as lunch each day.   To learn more about what to expect during the WFA experience, please check out the SOLO WFA curriculum website page: http://soloschools.com/wilderness-first-aid-wfa/

SIGN UP NOW!

 

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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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Leah’s Blog August 4 and Beyond Pt 1

August 4th and Beyond Part I

by: Leah Chisolm-Allison

Highlights from the weeks of 7/23-8/5  consisted of our our Process Tour presentations of our mini exhibits that we put together, a surprise thank you brunch from the staff at Saga, and our research and construction of our biggest and final exhibit on Homer Saint-Gaudens.

Presenting our exhibit to the public has been amazing. It is quite the accomplishment for Abigail and I to both present on the research we have done on our assigned topics. Also seeing the interest that visitors have on what we were talking about and engaging with us and discussing about it with us felt great. I loved talking about an important piece of American history, the twenty dollar gold piece, that Saint-Gaudens commissioned to represent America.

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Our Surprise Brunch was fantastic. ACE and SCA Interns had no idea that we were in for a surprise. Members of the SAGA staff gave out praise and thanks for our hard work and help during this season. Afterwards we were all able to enjoy the delicious baked goods and fruit that was laid out on the table to be enjoyed and consumed.

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Lastly, for our final and upcoming exhibit on Homer Saint-Gaudens went spent an entire day in the Rauner Special Collections Library at Dartmouth College. While there we had access and read through piles of written correspondences from the Saint-Gaudens family. We also got to hold and read through some of Homer’s personal belongings, letters, checkbooks, textbooks, and letters to and from his family. This helped us get an insider’s view to who he was as a person and to read about his life and accomplishments.

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Secretary of the Interior Zinke visits ACE Asheville Crews

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Happy 101 National Park Service! 
Friday, August 25th, 2017 marked the National Park Service’s 101st Birthday.
To mark this momentous anniversary U.S. Secretary to the Interior, Ryan Zinke came to Great Smokey Mountains National Park to learn about back logged projects and meet NPS staff and AmeriCorps volunteers.

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ACE was deeply honored to be able to host Secretary Zinke at one of our worksites (Rainbow Falls Trail) where we were able to share with him what our AmeriCorps members are currently working on. ACE President and CEO, Christopher Baker was on site to meet Secretary Zinke and share with him a little about national conservation corps efforts on public lands.

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We’d like to thank Secretary Zinke and his team for coming out to meet with our corps members. And to our amazing partners at the National Park Service at Great Smokey Mountains National Park for supporting, training and mentoring our young people, we are forever grateful.

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About the project: The Rainbow Falls Trail Project is in the first year of a 2 year trail rehabilitation project. Rainbow Falls is one of the most popular trails in the park and receives high usage from the public. ACE is working alongside the NPS Trails Forever crew to ensure user safety, sustainability, erosion control, and improve user enjoyment. The work ACE is doing focuses on widening the tread in narrow places, excavating grade dips to improve drainage, outsloping the tread to prevent erosion, and building steps in steeper areas to aid in soil containment. All of these projects improve user safety and enjoyment.

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ACE Corps Members make this project possible by focusing on the fine details of the tread work while also collecting materials to aid in the construction of larger structures on the trail such as staircases and retaining walls. ACE Corps Members use rigging systems to maneuver large rocks into place, split them using drills and chisels, then set them in place with rock bars to provide long-lasting sustainable trail structures that will support high usage from the public on an incredibly scenic trail. ACE Corps Members work alongside NPS members to assist in these highly technical projects. This is truly a cooperative workforce as ACE helps Great Smoky Mountains National Park complete large scale trail restoration projects while gaining valuable career development skills and experience working on public lands in the field of land management.

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Courtesy of Secretary Zinke’s Twitter:

KICKING OFF THE CRSA

KICKING OFF THE CRSA

Things are starting to calm down around the Olmsted Center, but they’re heating up for me. Our numbers have dwindled over the last few weeks as Daisy, Jill, and Catrina have all left Boston and returned to school. I already miss them tons, but I’m thrilled to be sticking around the Olmsted Center for a bit longer. So, what exactly will I be doing for the next few months, aside from reveling in all of the apple-picking, leaf-changing, and general fall-related fun New England has to offer?

The main reason I was brought on as an intern is to assist with the completion of the next round of Cultural Resource Stewardship Assessments (CRSA) for the Northeast Region. The initiative is taking place across the NPS with the eventual goal of completing CRSAs for every park in the system.

The CRSA seeks find out how we’re doing as stewards of the cultural resources that are in our care. Cultural resources are different from the natural resources that are more commonly associated with the National Parks Service (Don’t worry, natural resources have their own similar, but separate, assessment program). Cultural resources include historic structures, cultural landscapes, archeological resources, cultural anthropology, history, and museum collections — All of my favorite things!

In a nutshell, the CRSA seeks to answer the following questions:

  • What do we know about the cultural resources that we care for at each park?
  • How are we applying that knowledge to their management?
  • What is the condition of these resources?
  • What do we need to do to maintain or improve our knowledge or the condition of these resources?

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As 2017 CRSA coordinator, I’ve gotta keep a lot of people in line…Hopefully they don’t see me like this.

The most interesting part for me will be getting to work with so many parks across the region, all of them fascinating in their own way. For this round of the CRSA, we’re starting off with Minute Man National Historical Park (the place where the first battle of the Revolutionary War took place) and Independence National Historical Park (where so many things happened that that I can’t even begin to list them. Just think Independence Hall, Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, Liberty Bell, and you’ll be well on your way). We’ll be adding other parks to that list in the coming weeks, but, as a former history major, I am elated to have the chance to work so closely with these two parks. To quote my first blog post, pinch me!

I’m most excited about getting to work with the teams of specialists who will represent the various cultural resource disciplines, both from the individual parks and from the regional offices. By talking and collaborating with these teams, we’ll be able to answer the questions I listed above and have a much better understanding of where we are now and what we need to do to make things better in the near future. Our interactions will also give me a great opportunity to gain a thorough and overarching understanding of the depth and range of work the NPS does.

I won’t have many interesting photos to share with you until we start visiting the parks that we’re assessing to meet with their teams (Right now, my days are filled with a lot of Word documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, emails, and phone calls). For now, I’ll leave you with a few photos from Minute Man, each photo representing a different type of cultural resource that will be part of the CRSA…

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The Hartwell Tavern represents the “historic structures” at Minute Man

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The view of one of the “cultural landscapes” at Minute Man

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A historic house foundation, representing “archeological resources.”

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The “History” of Minute Man is represented by a 1775 etching of the fighting at the Old North Bridge (Courtesy of the Library of Congress).

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“Cultural anthropology” is represented by the involvement of the local community, such as the Lexington Minute Men.

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Fired musket balls from the park’s “museum’s collections.”

Aleck Tan – Blog 3

TALL TREES GROVE AND REDWOOD CREEK TRAIL

This summer, I made it a goal to go on a hike every weekend. I thought to myself, this is one of the greatest wonders in the world, and this might be the only chance I get to explore this national park for two whole months. So far, I have accomplished that goal, but I’ve mostly gone on short, easy hikes with my neighbors in park housing. However, my neighbor and colleague Joni has wanted to do a long hike in Redwood National Park for a while now. My fiancé was also visiting for the Fourth of July weekend, so I wanted him to go on a hike with us and also experience Redwood National Park. We decided that today was the perfect day for a long hike.

After getting recommendations and guidance from our cultural resource manager here at Redwood National Park, we decided to do the Tall Trees Trail which then leads to Redwood Creek Trail for a total of 9.7 miles. We parked one car at the Tall Trees trailhead, and one car at the Redwood Creek trailhead so we were only going one way (thankfully the downhill way), and could shuttle ourselves back to the start rather than going back around and hiking uphill for miles on end.

We started our hike at the Tall Trees trailhead with mosquitoes in the air and a nice cold breeze. The Tall Trees trail is a 1.5 mile hike that leads you to the Tall Trees Grove, where in a 1-mile loop, the redwoods tower at least 320 feet over you. We decided to hike to the Tall Trees Grove, which was an easy feat from the trailhead because it was all downhill, but it was an 800 feet elevation difference in 1.5 miles. We met some people climbing back up to the trailhead who did not seem to be enjoying that uphill climb, and we met some people who had great big smiles across their faces. Joni and I were grateful that we wouldn’t have to do the same exhausting climb and were smiling all the way downhill.

Hike to Tall Trees Grove consisted of many different types of trees.

Hike to Tall Trees Grove consisted of many different types of trees.

When we arrived at the Tall Trees Grove, it was overwhelming how beautiful the redwoods are. Their bark shines a magnificent deep red color, especially when it is illuminated by the sun. There are cobwebs that live between the bark, and seem to sparkle in sunlight: this is Joni’s favorite part about the trees. There is much to marvel at with redwood trees. While most people look up to see the redwoods, I tend to look down as I hike to avoid roots and rocks, but also to see my own favorite part about the redwoods, which is the understory.

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Spider webs in between the bark

Spider webs in between the bark

At the bottom of these tall redwoods, little plants cover the ground as part of the understory of the redwoods. My favorite plants are the sorrels. They look like clovers, in that they cover the ground and have 3 leaves that look like hearts. They are considered to be under the oxalis family. I describe them as fluffy, but Joni strongly disagrees and says they do not look fluffy at all. In my opinion, it’s almost as if they are so soft and almost cloud-like, and they could support your weight if you decided to roll around on them (but they most definitely cannot because they are so fragile). I just think they are the best part about these redwoods, which is surprising to some since you’d think anyone’s favorite part about the redwoods is the redwoods themselves. But the truth is, redwoods are part of a whole system that allows them to thrive, from the climate and elevation to the understory and the fires that they withstand. Each part plays an important role in helping redwoods grow.

 

Redwood sorrel that grows in the understory

Redwood sorrel that grows in the understory

We hiked around Tall Trees Grove for a half mile, and connected with the Redwood Creek Trail, which takes you to a summer footbridge across the creek. We decided to stop and eat lunch by the creek mainly because there were no mosquitoes hovering about but also because it was sunny and warm. After our lunch, there was about 7.7 miles left on the hike. For the first .7 miles, it was uphill, but for the rest of the hike, it was relatively flat and easy, with multiple small stream crossings and bridge crossings.

 

Lunch spot by Redwood Creek.

Lunch spot by Redwood Creek.

 

The 7.7 mile hike along Redwood Creek was beautiful. There were numerous swimming holes to swim at, which was very tempting, but we didn’t have enough time to stop and swim. On your left, there are young redwood trees and sword ferns growing, while on your right, there are hazelnut, red alders and maple trees growing. They were two drastically different types of forests living side by side, only separated by the trail. My favorite part about the tall and skinny trees is how the light shines through their light bright green leaves.

Sunlight through the bright foliage.

Sunlight through the bright foliage.

 

I’m not quite sure what this tree is called but it is covered in moss and reminds me of the scene in The Hobbit where the company gets swarmed by spiders.

I’m not quite sure what this tree is called but it is covered in moss and reminds me of the scene in The Hobbit where the company gets swarmed by spiders.

 

 

With about 3 miles left, I started getting tired, but kept trudging on. We crossed another summer footbridge to get across the creek, and were met with blackberry bushes and wild cucumbers on the other side. I tried a Himalaya berry, which is one of the plants that I map for my project, and it was sweet and juicy. The wild cucumbers were interesting because they had soft spikes on them.

The rest of the hike was easy, but we were glad to reach the car at the Redwood Creek trailhead. We were also very glad that we could take the car and drive back to the Tall Trees trailhead rather than doing the 9.7 miles back to the trailhead. After shuttling back to the car at the Tall Trees trailhead, we started on our drive back home.

 

 

On the way home, we stopped at the Redwood Creek Overlook, which is a scenic stop that lets you see the Redwood Creek and the surrounding redwoods. When we stopped though, the clouds and the fog were rolling in and we weren’t able to see much. We also stopped at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, where there is a footbridge that crosses the main road, the Bald Hills road. The footbridge allowed you to see the redwoods about 30 feet off the ground, so it was a different perspective, especially as the fog rolled in and seemed wispy amongst the trees.

Redwood Creek overlook

Redwood Creek overlook

Lady Bird Johnson Grove footbridge across Bald Hills Road.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove footbridge across Bald Hills Road.

It’s one thing to talk about the park and show pictures of the park, but it’s another thing to experience it. Words can never describe how magnificent the Redwood National Park is. It’s no wonder thousands of people travel from across the world to experience it themselves.

 

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park – Alabama

ACE North Carolina has completed a 16 week project at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park. The park is located in Alabama, in Tallapoosa county, near Alexander city.

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

The park is run by the National Park Service and was marked as a national military park because it was the site of the Creek War on March 27, 1814. (For more information on the park and it’s history click here: https://www.nps.gov/hobe/learn/historyculture/index.htm )

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

The main objective of this project was to control exotic vegetation in a 450 acre area within the backcountry area of the park and to survey invasive species infestations along the Tallapoosa River within the park boundary. To monitor these areas along the river the crews took the Tallapoosa by canoe and marked the areas with GPS coordinates.

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

A second crew went back into those areas with herbicide to treat the marked locations. The removal of exotic species will improve the natural resources by eliminating competition from invasive species and helping native species thrive.

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

The crew was focusing on two main species, privet (Ligustrum spp.), cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) as well as tree of heaven, mimosa tree, chinaberry, Japanese honeysuckle and kudzu. The ACE crew was lead by Nicole Macnamee, Chelesi White and Murphy Danko throughout various stages of the project.

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

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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Hello World! – From San Juan

 Hello World! – From San Juan

by: Jordan Davis

Hello! My name is Jordan Davis and I am interning with the San Juan Island National Historical Park (SAJH) on San Juan Island, Washington this summer. I hold a bachelor’s degree in History (with a minor in Archaeology) from Calvin College and am currently competing a professional master’s degree program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Sustainable Peacebuilding. This summer, I am working on the SAJH “archaeology crew” at American Camp, one of the two major part units along with “English Camp” on San Juan Island. In 1859, the United States and Great Britain almost went to war over a boundary dispute in the region. Known as the “Pig War,” namely in reference to the shooting of a pig of the Hudson’s Bay Company by an American settler—the SAJH preserves and interprets the history of the conflict and the peaceful resolution of hostilities. The park, however, is also one of the many stewards for the natural resources of the island, including foxes, eagles, butterflies, and the shorelines which are important for the conservation of salmon and orcas. Furthermore, the SAJH is also a steward of the indigenous cultural landscapes of San Juan Island, a commitment to the Coast Salish Tribes and Nations who have lived in the region for thousands of years including the Samish, Stillaguamish, and Lummi. Major challenges confronting the park lie in balancing cultural and natural heritage preservation and management, as well as a broadening park interpretive frame responsive to historically marginalized voices and peoples.

In coming posts, I will be able to go into more depth about the park’s history and archaeological survey work, nature and wildlife conservation, island festivities, and the parks’ vital, collaborative engagements with Coast Salish peoples in this truly breathtaking place.

The Visitor Center at “American Camp” at San Juan Island National Historical Park (SAJH)

The Visitor Center at “American Camp” at San Juan Island National Historical Park (SAJH)

View Overlooking “English Camp” at San Juan Island National Historical Park (SAJH)

View Overlooking “English Camp” at San Juan Island National Historical Park (SAJH)

Colorado Springs Rock Work and Trail Restoration

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

This past spring ACE Arizona had a crew working in Colorado Springs along side the University of Colorado.

The crew was working a trail system located along a hillside that cuts through the university campus. Due to its location on the hillside the trail has been subjected to erosion from rainfall. One of the crew’s main objectives was to fill in major ruts and holes along the trail as well as removing rocks that have been uncovered by rain.

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The crew’s goal was to build two armored drain pans that will direct the rain off the path and protect the trail from future erosion.  The eight day project was lead by crew leader, Nicole Cuaz

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The extensive rock work required the use of rock movers, rock drills, and trial and error to find the perfect rocks to fit the armored drain pans. The armored drain pans were supported by two multi-tier retaining walls which slow down the water flowing off of the armored drain pans.

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

The university is making an effort to expand and improve their trails systems to encourage students to hike and bike around campus as opposed to driving. The work was fully completed during this one project and will protect that trail for years to come. ACE was happy to lend a hand on this project and would like to thank the University of Colorado.

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

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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