Meet Angel Andrade. A corps member based out of our Flagstaff, AZ branch.
For all the latest ACE news.
Meet Angel Andrade. A corps member based out of our Flagstaff, AZ branch.
Over the course of seven weeks, ACE Asheville worked with the North Carolina High Peaks Trail Association, Mount Mitchell State Park and Pisgah National Forest to repair and restore Mount Mitchell Trail. At 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi River. The vegetation varies greatly along the 5 ½ miles to the dramatic summit and features spectacular stands of Red Spruce old-growth.
The ACE trail crew was led by Zak Beyersdoerfer for the duration of the project. The work involved repairing tread, structures and the overall sustainability of the Mount Mitchell Trail by improving drainage, repairing switchbacks and removing obtrusive rocks where necessary. The crew reconstructed multiple wooden staircases along the trail, carrying the large, heavy wooden steps up the steep trail with a backpack.
Using grip hoists and rockbars the crew also moved boulders from the trail and to flagged areas to prevent the creation of new social trails. “Trail work is a lot of psychology,” explained Josh Burt, ACE Southeast Fields Operation Manager. “It’s not enough to make a physical obstacle to prevent social trails, you also have to make visual barriers.” Josh explained that having a rock in place to prevent a hiker from going off trail is not enough; the hiker is always looking ahead and planning their route beforehand. Following this advice, the crew also put in place eye level barriers such as dead branches to deter hikers from cutting across a switchback.
The work completed by the ACE crew and its partners will certainly help to make this trail, in one of our nation’s first state parks, capable of supporting many more visitors for years to come.
ACE Arizona is assisting with an important effort to thin the fire-prone forest in northern Arizona’s Coconino National Forest. The ACE crew is being led by Matt Donaldson and is working in partnership with the Flagstaff Ranger District.
A century of fire suppression has resulted in dangerously overstocked forests, leaving the forests across the Southwest in a very vulnerable state. Increasing temperatures and decreasing water availability due to climate change has exacerbated this even further.
Fire disturbance is a critical part of the natural cycle and plays a vital role in supporting a diverse complement of plant species and structure. Under ideal conditions forest fires clear the dead and lower branches in the forest allowing sunlight to reach the forest floor. In contrast, historic fire suppression has resulted in a surplus of fuels at the lower levels of the forest, which quickly spreads to the canopy, destroying entire forests.
The goal of this project is to manage the overgrown areas in the Coconino National Forest to prevent these fires from turning catastrophic. The crew is working with the Forest Service’s silviculturist who is writing prescriptions for each area of the forest. The prescriptions are written based on tree size, health and grouping. Part of the work entails remarking previously marked trees as well as marking by these new prescriptions. If you are out hiking in these areas, please note that the trees that are marked are the ones that will not be cut during the forest thinning.
ACE corps members are gaining a thorough understanding of a variety of resource objectives related to wildlife, fire and fuels, timber, recreation, archeology, and soil hydrology. They are also learning how these multifaceted issues all play into the development of prescriptions and the layout of cutting unit boundaries. This project will be continuing though the end of the summer.
ACE Asheville and the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) have been partnering on a variety of projects since 2014. Each year ACE provides approximately seven weeks of human power in the summer and seven weeks in the fall to the CMLC. Together we work to protect the natural communities and scenic beauty of the Hickory Nut Gorge by managing the establishment and spread of non-native invasive plants. (Fun fact: the area is located near Lake Lure, North Carolina, which was the film site for Dirty Dancing and Last of the Mohicans.)
The summer project was located at Chimney Rock State Park and was lead by ACE crew leader Jess Coffee-Johnson along with Weed Action Coalition of Hickory Nut Gorge’s (WACHNG) Natural Resource Manager, David Lee. We treated three priority invasive species: kudzu (Pueraria montana), princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa), and tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima). The crew treated the invasives by cutting the vines as well as using herbicide sprayers. Working in two groups, sprayers and brushers, the crew scaled the hillside in organized groups, each person in their designated section.
Kudzu spreads at approximately 150,000 acres per year, which is how it earned the nickname “the vine that ate the south.” This rapid spread is why ACE returns every year to treat and prevent the spread of these invasive species which compete for resources with native plants.
ACE will be returning to work with the CLMC in September to continue treatment.
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.
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 )
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Meet Kelly Waldron. A corps member based out of our Asheville, NC branch.
We're busy conserving the environment