For all the latest ACE news.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


Make a Difference Day 2017

What a wonderful collaboration between the City of Sustainability, our friends at Willow Bend Environmental Education Center and all of the other partner organizations, City and County staff and members of our beautiful community of Flagstaff. Our hats off to all of you. THANK YOU!
-Article Courtesy of Arizona Daily Sun

Click here to read article:



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)


Dry Lake Hills Forest Thinning

ACE Arizona is continuing work on an 18-week forest-thinning project in the Dry Lake Hills region of Coconino National Forest, just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. ACE is partnering with the City of Flagstaff Fire Department and the US Forest Service to complete this hand-thinning project.

Fire is a natural part of the ecosystem in this region. Historically, wildfires would burn across the forest floor, clearing out the dead and lower branches of trees, making way for a diverse understory of grasses, sedges, and forbs. After a century of fire suppression, logging and grazing, thick ground fuels and a ladder of dead branches have resulted in increased risks of crown fires. Numerous studies based on Forest Service data show that 90% of the trees on Southwestern forests are 12 inches in diameter and smaller. It is the high density of these small trees that represents the greatest fire risk.

In 2010, the Schultz fire burned 15,000 acres and caused between $133 and $147 million in economic damages to the Flagstaff community. The Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP) conducted a study that concluded that post-fire flood impacts in the Dry Lake Hills region have the potential to result in significant damage to downstream watersheds. Catastrophic wildfires cause severe floods when they burn the vegetation that would normally absorb the rainfall, leaving the ground charred, barren, and unable to absorb water.

The Forest Service silviculturist has written prescriptions for five sections of the 100-acre area being thinned by the eight person ACE crew. The crew will be felling trees that are 9 inch diameter and smaller. After felling and bucking up the trees, the crew will be building piles for future prescribed fire operations. City of Flagstaff Fire Department Operations Specialist, Matt Millar, and ACE crew leader, Katherine Dickey, are overseeing this project. ACE is honored to participate in this effort to create a healthier ponderosa pine forest for the residents of Flagstaff.

Arizona Snowbowl Spruce Bark Beetle Removal

This August, an ACE Arizona chainsaw crew worked to remove the spruce bark beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis) from Flagstaff’s backyard ski area, Arizona Snowbowl. Crew leader Shelby Descamps provided excellent leadership to the ACE crew for two, eight-day projects.


The spruce beetle has caused extensive tree damage to all species of spruce throughout the West. In order to deposit their eggs, female bark beetles bore into the bark of dead or dying spruce trees and lay eggs in the underlying phloem tissue. While these beetles are a natural part of the ecosystem, inhabiting dead or dying trees, they often become overpopulated and infect living trees as well. A combination of natural factors that impact forest health such as drought, dense forest stands, fire suppression, and past grazing practices contribute to conditions that foster bark beetle outbreaks. In the past 25 years, outbreaks have resulted in estimated losses over 100 million acres in Arizona (U.S. Department of Agriculture and Forest Service).


In attempt to prevent future tree loss, ACE partnered with the Arizona Snowbowl to remove the bark from fallen and dead trees to remove the larva. With a log debarker attachment for chainsaws, crewmembers were able to peel off the bark and remove the larva. ACE is proud to be working in the Flagstaff community to help preserve the spruce population.


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.


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:




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.


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.


#IamACE – Patrick Council – USBR

Tell us a little about yourself

I am a recent Electrical Engineering graduate from the Colorado School of Mines where I graduated “Magna Cum Laude”. I won third place in the Senior Design Trade fair, and won third place in the Crutches for Africa wheelchair design competition for Mines. When Im not working or studying, I spend some time playing video games that require critical thinking, creative design, and incorporate engineering into the game. The other portion of my free time is spent designing solutions for the home, building circuits or woodwork, composing music, game programming, and playing the violin with my wife. I am currently working on my Master’s of Science in Electrical Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines.

When you started in your position was it what you expected?

I came to intern with the Bureau of Reclamation expecting to do power system analysis like we have been doing in our classes, but I was quickly taken in to do more hands-on tasks that I was not necessarily expecting to do given what I have learned in college. I quickly became familiar with the Machine Condition Monitor cabinet which was designed to take in and record real-time hydroelectric generator vibration and shaft displacement.

What were some other duties that you took on in your internship?

In addition to vibration monitoring, the cabinet recorded its power output, voltages, current output, and much more familiar electrical properties. These cabinets I have been building are shipped to hydropower plants around the Western United States to provide operators necessary information about the operation of their generators to prevent excess vibration that causes mechanical stresses on components holding the generator and turbine in place during operation. The 2009 Sayano–Shushenskaya power station accident is the main reason the Bureau of Reclamation started monitoring vibration to prevent catastrophic failures of hydroelectric generators.

Beyond assembly of these cabinets, I have had the opportunity to go to hydropower plants to witness these cabinets in action. I have helped upgrade existing cabinets and helped General Electric connect to Reclamation’s cabinets to collect data. Some upgrades to the cabinets included replacing input cards with custom input cards designed by Reclamation’s Electrical Engineers. One of my tasks was to solder components on these boards and test them. I learned how to surface mount components on a printed circuit board.

Patrick (left) and EPIC Director, Shane Barrow (next) with the USBR team

Patrick (left) and EPIC Director, Shane Barrow (next) with the USBR team

How have your responsibilities grown as you developed your skillset?

Closer to the end of my internship I have been given the task to help update and redesign an accelerometer driver to monitor vibration inside the air housing of generators. This involved using what I have learned in college and resulted in being a great learning experience. During prototyping, I have learned that the world of operational amplifiers is beyond anything they could teach in undergraduate studies. Experimentation led us to a better design. I designed a printed circuit board layout for the first time after the design was finalized which is in the processed of being reviewed before being mass produced. The accelerometer driver design also led me to finding and recommending less expensive accelerometers to be used to help save Reclamation on their project costs.

What are you proud of with your work and what are you looking forward to?

The final stretch of my internship will involve soldering components onto the printed circuit board I designed, finishing up two more cabinets, testing the new accelerometer that I found, and going to another power plant to implement the accelerometer driver and accelerometers for permanent installation and data collection. This internship has been very involved and it has taught me that electrical engineers do much more than what we are taught in the class room. In the end, I am proud of my work because I know it has an important place in the power industry.

Patrick (second to left) and USBR team at Glen Canyon.

Patrick (second to left) and USBR team at Glen Canyon.



Secretary of the Interior Zinke visits ACE Asheville Crews


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


Courtesy of Secretary Zinke’s Twitter:

We're busy conserving the environment