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The first crew of 2016

ACE Arizona is so happy to welcome our first crew of 2016.

New GOYFF recruit Sarah Komisar uses a powerpoint to introduce herself to the rest of the new recruits.

New GOYFF recruit Sarah Komisar uses a powerpoint to introduce herself to the rest of the new recruits.

On Monday January 4th, 21 new recruits of ACE Arizona’s Leadership Development Program arrived at Intermountain headquarters in Flagstaff, AZ. These members have committed to a six month AmeriCorps program working on environmental service projects throughout the state of Arizona. These new recruits are volunteering in partnership with the State of Arizona’s Governors Office for Youth, Faith and Family (GOYFF). This marks the 7th year ACE has partnered with the GOYFF to engage young adults in a service-learning environment.

Paul Beuchner, a Wilderness First Aid trainer from the National Outdoor Leadership School, explains how to safely move an injured person in order to transport them or administer further care.

Paul Beuchner, a Wilderness First Aid trainer from the National Outdoor Leadership School, explains how to safely move an injured person in order to transport them or administer further care.

During their first three months with ACE, our newest AmeriCorps corpsmembers they will work on a single project to help them utilize and develop proficiency in the skills they learn during their initial training. For their remaining three months in the program, the corpsmembers will operate on ACE’s traditional rotating project schedule, applying their newly gained knowledge over a wider variety of project types.

ACE corps members undergo Wilderness First Aid training as part of their term of service.

ACE corps members undergo Wilderness First Aid training as part of their term of service.

ACE provides educational opportunities by bringing in professional land managers and other industry experts that can expose members to the various career options that exist within the field of conservation, providing knowledge that will aid them in becoming the next generation of land management leaders. The members will also work to organize a volunteer service project event within the local Flagstaff community.

Emily Zastrow, a new GOYFF member, engages the other recruits in a short yoga session as a way to introduce herself.

Emily Zastrow, a new GOYFF member, engages the other recruits in a short yoga session as a way to introduce herself.

It’s been a busy few days, not only for our new members but for ACE’s dedicated Intermountain Staff and Trainers. Our newest ACE corps members are receiving training’s including sustainable trail construction, rock work, and Wilderness First Aid. Training will continue into next week when the recruits will embark on their first project.

Ranch Trail, Prescott National Forest

Yesterday, a crew began a project in Prescott National Forest brushing the corridor for a re-route of the Ranch Trail, which lies just 20 minutes outside of Prescott. ACE partnered with USFS for this project. The original trail alignment runs along a ridge and drops down in several areas in an un-sustainable fashion, and because of the steepness, normal drains cannot be installed–thus the need for the reroute.

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After the crews clear the corridor, Forest Service employees will then follow with a trail dozer to cut the tread. The plan for this 8 day hitch is to complete 3 miles of clearing, establishing a corridor 6 to 8 feet wide. The work involves multiple sawyers cutting scrub oak and other vegetation that is growing in the path of the proposed trail, and then several corps members following behind and moving the slash (cut vegetation) off trail and out of sight.

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The creation of this reroute will ensure that the trail is sustainable and can be used by the public for years to come.

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Trail building at Hidden Cove Petroglyph Park, AZ

An ACE Arizona crew just completed an 8 day hitch in Holbrook, AZ at Hidden Cove Petroglyph Park. The area features hundreds of petroglyphs (rock art) that date to the Pueblo II era, which spanned from roughly 900 to 1100 A.D. Hidden Cove also includes the historic ruins of the Zuck family ranch. These cultural features establish Hidden Cove as very important and very fragile area.

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Up until now, there have been guided tours provided to the public on weekends, but no established trails. The City of Holbrook sought funding several years ago to create sustainable trails that will allow visitors to see the park without degrading it, and now ACE crews have begun building them.

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The work is varied; at the top of the mesa, the soil is so thin and the ground is so flat that crews created a trail using push brooms, so as to disturb the landscape as little as possible. At the bottom of the mesa however, heavier labor is required. Corps members have been splitting and shaping large rocks to use as steps, and using a grip hoist to move boulders out of the way of the trail.

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This project is imperative to preserve this historic area, and, once complete, visitors to the park will be able to safely and respectfully experience the beautiful landscape and cultural features.

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Rock work at Wupatki National Monument

An ACE Arizona crew has just returned from a four day hitch working at Wupatki National Monument. The crew worked alongside NPS staff to repair numerous bollards (small stone structures) in the Citadel Ruin area of the monument. The structures were created to prevent ATV/UTV users from driving on the protected area.

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The crews were not completely removing the structures, instead they focused on chipping off and replacing old mortar and removing and replacing rocks that were unstable — a process known as repointing. For the time being, this task is the primary project for the crew, but when they complete repairs to the bollards they will move on to trail maintenance in another area of the park.

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ACE crews work at the local Flagstaff monuments all year round on various types of restoration and conservation projects. The work can be challenging at times, but as ACE Crew Leader Nicole Cuaz put it, “…our work here will help to free up NPS staff to focus on other important projects. It’s an awesome opportunity to get to work in and help protect the monument.”

Trail Maintenance in Prescott National Forest, AZ

ACE Arizona crews recently completed a trail project in Prescott National Forest. The project involved annual light maintenance of several high volume, multi-use trails located on the outskirts of Prescott, in an area known as the Prescott Basin.

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Crews focused on brushing — opening the trail corridor to 6 ft wide and 10 ft tall, and clearing out existing drains. “In a few spots we also installed features to make the trail more sustainable,” explained crew leader Jimmy Gregson. “We put in an armored drain pan and a retaining wall, and created a few new drains along the trails as well.”

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The two crews completed 20.7 miles of maintenance during the project. Each crew was provided with a ranked list of 7 priority areas to work in, and they therefore used maps of the area to plan their time effectively.

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The highest priorities for both crews were sections of the popular Prescott Circle Trail, which circumnavigates the city and lies on lands managed by the City of Prescott, Prescott National Forest, and Arizona State Land Department. Since ACE partnered with the US Forest Service for this project, they worked on sections of the trails that were within the Prescott National Forest boundary.

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A majority of the work was completed within the Thumb Butte and Granite Mountain areas. “I’ve never done any work like this before,” said Kaitlin Eagan, an ACE corps member of two months. “It feels great to use my body for hard work that really means a lot.”

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The crews efforts will ensure that the trails can be safely used by hikers, bikers, and equestrians so they can access the gorgeous scenery that is available to them just outside of town.

Arizona Trail Association Seeds of Stewardship

ACE staff and Corps Members recently attended a local community service project in Flagstaff, where they partnered with the Arizona Trails Association and the Coconino National Forest to teach a large group of 75 students from the local Mount Elden Middle School about the importance of trail work.

ACE were awarded a plaque recognizing their exceptional commitment to the community and continued support of the Coconino National Forest Trails Program

ACE were awarded a plaque recognizing their exceptional commitment to the community and continued support of the Coconino National Forest Trails Program

The students arrived in the morning and gathered at the Little Elden trail head for an introduction from Coconino National Forest’s Trails and Wilderness Coordinator Sean Murphy. At this time, ACE was presented with a plaque recognizing our exceptional commitment to the community and continued support of the Coconino National Forest Trails Program. Sean also conducted a safety briefing, and demonstrated the tools that the students would be using which included Mcleods, shovels, and pick mattocks.

Tools in hand, the students hike to work led by an ACE leader

Tools in hand, the students hike to work led by an ACE leader

Th​e ​students were split up into groups of four and assigned a leader, either an ACE​ Corps Member or an Arizona Trail Steward. The groups began digging drains and check dams to direct the flow of rainwater off the trail and to make it more sustainable. “It’s important to get kids invested in the structures that they use for fun, and to teach them that trails don’t just happen–it takes a lot of hard work,” said Sean Murphy. “They will feel a little more ownership for the trails they use after this project.” The students spent a half day (about 4 hours including a lunch break) at the Little Elden Trail, alternating between working and participating in educational hikes in the area.

A.J. Conrad demonstrates techniques to the students

A.J. Conrad demonstrates techniques to the students

The event was part of the Arizona Trail Association’s Seeds of Stewardship initiative, a youth outreach, education, and stewardship program that aims to encourage youth participation in the Arizona Trail through experience, education, and service learning. “I think it’s important for younger people like myself and other ACE Corps Member to help teach these kids because we can relate to them and connect with them on a more personal level,” explained Gavin Monson, ACE Crew Leader. “I think it’s crucial to instill these conservation goals in the minds of these children. They’ll be in charge someday. If we can show them that this kind of work is important, we can help make a difference for the future.”

Students learn about tool use

Students learn about tool use

The students were enthusiastic about the work, and it was evident that they truly cared about the impression they were making on the land. “I like this kind of work because I like being outdoors,” said student Corbin Cuff. “I think it’s important because we can help the environment.” Corbin went on to explain that he would certainly be interested in doing more trail work in his future. It has been said that we will conserve only what we love, and we love only what we understand.

Everyone at ACE thoroughly enjoyed the event and we hope to participate in future events.

Arizona National Scenic Trail Repair

This Wednesday, an ACE crew returns from a project on the Arizona National Scenic Trail (ANST). The project is a partnership between Tonto National Forest, Mesa Ranger District, the Arizona Trail Association, and ACE. The goal of the project is to renovate 4.6 miles of the ANST, which has suffered from decades of neglect exacerbated by significant erosion as a result of the 2012 Sunflower Fire.

After the fire, the monsoon rains ripped the original trail to pieces, and flooding caused significant sloughing from the steep slopes that are a prominent feature in the area. The initial trail is nearly indistinguishable, and hikers frequently have gotten lost in the area, making it unsafe. When renovation is complete, a portion of the ANST will be redirected from the current unsustainable trail to a new route. The new route will connect to the Cornucopia Trail, an old mining trail that is part of the state trails system in the area.

Mount Peely Trail before trail dozer

Mount Peely Trail before trail dozer

The project featured the use of one of ACE’s trail bulldozers (SWECO), which cut the initial tread of the new route and significantly lessened the work for the hand crews that followed behind. The dozer was an essential machine in the creation of the reroute because of the excessive sloughing of soil and the prodigious plant growth that had all but destroyed the old path.

ACE's Trail Dozer

The SWECO cuts the initial tread of the new route.

Corps members work on the trail after the trail dozer

Corps members work on the trail after the trail dozer

The project has required two years of logistical planning, mapping, site visits, and permit acquisition. Crews can only work at the site at certain times of the year, weather permitting. The types of work that the crew focused on were trail stabilization, water, and erosion control. They used hand tools to smooth out the tread, establish the critical edge and a stable backslope, and to brush back encroaching vegetation. This work will ensure that the trail corridor is wide enough to accommodate the intended user groups and conform to USFS standards.

The trail after corps members

The trail after corps members have smoothed out the surface and repaired the critical edge

Corps member brushing the trail corridor

Corps member brushing the trail corridor

The crew camped just off the trail in a very remote backcountry setting, which lacked facilities but included gorgeous views of craggy mountain peaks and narrow canyons. This project will take seven weeks to complete, and afterwards the trail will be restored to a sustainable condition and will be accessible so that the public can safely enjoy the beautiful scenery and appreciate the rugged landscapes.

Crew Campsite

The crew camped just off the trail in a very remote backcountry setting, which lacked facilities but included gorgeous views of craggy mountain peaks and narrow canyons

Concert for the Birds, Las Vegas NM

ACE recently attended an event titled “Concert for the Birds,” celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Las Vegas, NM Wildlife Refuge. The ACE crew assisted in several ways: weeding the educational ADA trail that surrounds the Wildlife Refuge headquarters of Musk Thistle, setting up the tents for the event, and managing educational games for the children attending the event.

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The whole festival was a means of showing appreciation to the public for their continuous love and support of the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge, as well as to promote the importance and necessity of National Wildlife Refuges around the country. The festival highlighted the importance of the refuge in welcoming an influx of migratory birds that stop by to recharge while on their journey south for the winter. The continued good health of this and all refuges is crucial in maintaining a steady ecological balance, perpetuating the lives of migrating birds, mammals, fish, waterfowl, and native grasses.

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ACE crews also tagged Monarch butterflies as part of their hitch. Monarch butterflies are endangered due to lack of habitat. They depend on milkweeds which provide nectar for migration, and are one of the only plants where they will lay their eggs.

Once ACE corps members had distinguished between a male or female Monarch butterflies they placed a thin round sticker–a third the size of a penny–on the discal cell of the under wing of the butterfly and recorded the “tag number” of the sticker, the gender of the butterfly and the date it was tagged. There was a flowering bush nearby that the corps members placed them on once the tagging was complete. From here, the butterflies will travel south to Mexico for the winter, heading back north during the spring.

Sunset Crater National Monument

An ACE Arizona crew has just completed a four day hitch working at Sunset Crater National Monument in Flagstaff. Crews have been working alongside National Park Service employees at the Flagstaff Area Monuments throughout the summer. This particular project at Sunset Crater has been ongoing for the past few months. Crews have been creating a new trail on Lenox Crater, a smaller crater that lies just east of the monument’s main attraction, Sunset Crater.

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The previous Lennox Crater trail was very wide, steep, and unsustainable. Its replacement was necessary to minimize the number of social trails that visitors were creating to make the hike easier.

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The crew recently completed the trail, and moved on to conceal and restore the original path. They used a grip hoist to tension a highline rope in order to move buckets of volcanic cinders up the steep slope. This process began with several ACE corps members filling buckets with cinders. These buckets were then loaded into a nylon sling which was attached to a snatch block, basically a large hook. One corps member operated the grip hoist downslope, while three others corps members utilized a ‘fireline’ technique to haul the load uphill. They deposited the cinders over the old path to conceal it and match it to the surrounding landscape.

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Finally, a corps member would drag the snatch block back downhill and the process would start over. The ACE crew worked directly with NPS employees, including Dale Thomas, who is a member of the ACE alumni. The project will be beneficial to visitors of the monument, creating a more pleasant trail, but it will also help to preserve the landscape for years to come.

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Arizona Trail Association Receives Top Honors

On Saturday, September 12 ACE’s Intermountain Regional Director Matt Roberts was invited to a prestigious event to celebrate the Arizona Trail Association receiving top honors at Arizona Forward’s 35th Annual Environmental Excellence Awards ceremony in Phoenix.

The Arizona Trail Association was awarded The Crescordia, Arizona Forward’s highest accolade, for its “unique approach to fostering long-term environmental sustainability throughout the state”. This award is well deserved: The Arizona Trail Association is behind a range of innovative programs such as the Seeds of Stewardship program, which encourages youth engagement, environmental education and stewardship; the Gateway Community program, which seeks to increase tourism and business development within the Arizona Trail’s 33 gateway communities; health and wellness challenges for the business community; and supporting Warrior Hikers to “walk off the war” along the Arizona Trail.

ACE is a strong supporter and partner of the Arizona Trail Association, and has contributed to the Arizona National Scenic Trail’s construction and maintenance for many years with thousands of hours of trail crew time dedicated to the task. On a personal level, Matt Roberts also serves as a volunteer Arizona Trail Steward for Segment 27c (Highline), volunteers with the Seeds of Stewardship program, and contributes, as an instructor, to the ATA Trail Work Training series.

Arizona Forward initiated the Environmental Excellence Awards in 1980 to recognize outstanding contributions to the physical environment of Arizona’s communities. The awards serve as a benchmark for promoting sustainability, conserving natural resources and preserving the unique desert environment for future generations. Over 120 entries were received in 2015, and 17 Crescordia Awards were given. To learn more, please visit arizonforward.org.

Pictured above are (left to right) Steve Seleznow, President & CEO, Arizona Community Foundation; Larry Snead, ATA Vice President of Board Development; Paul Burghard, Tonto National Forest; Lyn Harry White, former ATA Board Member; Eric Hiser, ATA Board President; Jan Hancock, ATA Board Secretary; Matt Roberts, Intermountain Region Director, American Conservation Experience; Dawn Collins, Chief of Resources & Public Programs, Arizona State Parks; and Robert Foster, ATA Supporter.

ACE Crews at Picture Canyon, Flagstaff

This past week ACE Arizona crews headed back out to Picture Canyon in Flagstaff with a focus on invasive removal and restoration work. Specifically, the crew were treating and removing Scotch thistle (Onopordum acanthium) and Russian/Diffuse knapweed (Centaurea diffusa).

Knapweeds are invasive plants which can impair wildlife habitats by reducing forage, decreasing native plant diversity, and increasing the potential of soil erosion. Scotch thistle is known to invade disturbed areas near roadsides, riparian banks, heavily grazed pastures, and burned areas. Its grows in dense stands which can outcompete native plants and create monocultures. This is common behavior of invasive plants in general.

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In riparian areas like Picture Canyon, dense thistle stands can grown into a physical barriers. To help mitigate these effects, a majority of the work involved corps members clipping the flower heads from the Scotch Thistle and spraying the plant, and hand pulling the knapweeds. The crew treated several areas along the Rio de Flag in this manner.

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Picture Canyon Preserve a is located just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, along the Rio de Flag. Picture Canyon is so called because of the hundreds of petroglyphs, pictographs and other archaeological remains of the Northern Sinagua that were discovered in the area. The Arizona Trail runs through this area, and attracts those interesting in recreational activities such as hiking, mountain biking, equestrian, photography, wildlife watching. Picture Canyon is also a great place to witness the changing of the leaves during fall.

Hazard Tree Removal in Los Alamos, NM

A crew of 5 ACE sawyers just returned from a project removing 2 miles of hazard tress which posed a risk to ski trails around the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area in New Mexico. This area had been affected by the 2011 Las Conchas Fire which burned 150,000 acres and threatened the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the nearby town of Los Alamos. After five days of burning it became the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history, although this record was broken in 2012 and the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire.

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So what makes a tree a ‘hazard tree’? The US Forest Service describes a hazard tree as ‘…a tree with structural defects likely to cause failure of all or part of the tree…” Effectively, hazard trees are dead but remain standing. They pose a danger to the public as they can fall without warning. It is therefore important to remove them from the vicinity of the trail, or ski run, to ensure the safety of the public.

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ACE sawyers are selected for Hazard Tree Felling based upon several criteria: Positive feedback from project partners and ACE Crew Leaders, demonstrating that they are interested and capable of progressing their saw skills, and, most importantly, having ample experience with the saw so that they can complete hazard tree cutting techniques safely and efficiently.

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The hazard tree training includes a review of different tree species that they may find, tree fiber structures and their effects on the felling of a tree, how to size up a complex tree, advanced cutting techniques and cuts, cut selection, and advanced wedging techniques. It’s also important the sawyers know a ‘walk away situation’ – a tree that cannot be safely felled at that time.

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At the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area the ACE sawyers felled a total of 109 hazard trees over 9 days, helping to secure the area in advance of the 2015 ski season.

Hazard Tree Crew

Hazard Tree Crew

Swedish students visit ACE

For the past few weeks, we have had a group of 6 Swedish students visiting and documenting the work of the crews in both our Flagstaff and Utah branches. The students are gathering content for a presentation on social entrepreneurship as part of the requirements for their environmental science major. They have been interviewing corps and staff members to learn more about ACE.

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Interviewing ACE Crew LEader

Interviewing ACE Crew Leader

The leader of the group was Marie Olssen, who served a 3-month term with ACE 9 years ago as an international volunteer. “It was the time of my life. I grew so much as a person, and became a lot more optimistic, independent and adventurous. My passion for the environment began with ACE, so I think I can credit my experience working for the organization for at least part of the inspiration for the continuation of my education in this field,” said Olssen.

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Interviewing NPS staff member

Interviewing NPS staff member

The students fly back to Sweden on Friday August 28th, and we will miss them!

Mesa Verde Crew

Today we welcome back a crew returning from Mesa Verde National Park in Southwest Colorado who for the past week the crew has focused on eliminating the highly invasive species Russian Knapweed from along the Mancos River within the park.

The Mesa Verde crew

The Mesa Verde crew

On the first day of the hitch, however, the river was swollen with monsoon rains. Since it was therefore unsafe to work by the river the crew worked with NPS staff to eradicate invasive musk thistle in a different location in the park.

Removing Musk Thistle

Removing Musk Thistle

Corps members removed the blooms from the musk thistle plants by either pulling them by hand or snipping with pruners. They cut the stalks to waist level height so other corps members came through and sprayed the stalks with Milestone herbicide to prevent the regrowth of the invasive.

Pruning the musk thistle

Pruning the musk thistle

The musk thistle can spread extremely rapidly because of the high seed production–almost 120,000 per plant!

Spraying the musk thistle

Spraying the musk thistle

Ecological restoration is something ACE corps members dedicate themselves to during their term of service. Part of restoring a native plant community to its original state is the removal of invasive, destructive species followed by the planting of native species.

The fruits of labor

The fruits of labor

Corps to Career: Veteran and ACE Alum Dale Thomas

American Conservation Experience is proud to showcase a former AmeriCorps member, Crew Leader, and United States Veteran, Dale Thomas.

Dale has had a long history of service. Not only in serving his community through volunteerism, but also serving his country. For 7 years Dale served with the Arizona Army National Guard, 819th Engineer Company. Joining the National Guard was the way he was going to help pay for his college tuition and do something meaningful with his life.

Dale Thomas serving military

Dale Thomas serving in the military

Serving our country while attending college at Northern Arizona University showed Dale’s dedication not only to the homeland but also to his education. While studying Parks and Recreation Management and Park Protection he was deployed to Afghanistan for a year. School was put on hold while he served.

“Our mission was Route Clearance, where we helped a lot of people by clearing IED’s (improvised explosive devices) from both paved and dirt roads to allow our own NATO forces, Afghan army and police, and local public to safely travel the roads. After this year long adventure, I returned to finish out school.”

After he returned from his deployment in Afghanistan Dale completed a final internship and a Wilderness First Responder course in order to receive his degree. Through NAU Dale found American Conservation Experience. Although Dale would have to travel with ACE, and be away from his wife and family, he decided it would help him meet his goal of working towards improving our natural resources.

Dale in ACE

Dale when serving as a Crew Leader with ACE

“ACE sounded like a really cool opportunity so I went for it. It was definitely worth it! In the beginning of my term I had fairly minimal experience in any of the tasks I performed in ACE. Through the service learning model I was trained in trail design, layout, construction, and maintenance; dry and wet stone masonry; archaeological ruin preservation, fencing construction and repair, and greatly improved my knowledge and skills with a chainsaw. Dry masonry and fencing turned out to be my favorite projects along with sawing. I also made quite a few connections. Once I was a crew leader, I had a lot of contact with different project partners. Many of them gave me their information and offered to be references and even offered some jobs. Which is how I got where I am now. Working for the National Park Service”

Dale spent quite a bit of his time with ACE working at the National Park Service, Flagstaff Area Monuments (Walnut Canyon National Monument, Sunset Crater National Monument, and Wupatki National Monument) and was able to make professional connections with the staff and management at these parks. Securing a position with NPS, Flagstaff Area Monuments, Dale is now a Maintenance Worker at the park. His tasks include working on trails such as the new Lenox Crater Trail at Sunset Crater NM, and doing general maintenance work such as repairing the Walnut Canyon visitor center.

When asked to speak to the next generation of corps members who may be interested in volunteerism and the conservation corps movement, Dale has some great advice:

“Be diligent and keep a good eye out for opportunities. Seek and utilize opportunities for training. These will improve your skill and knowledge base. Practice being calm, cool, and collected and rely upon your training as this is what your mind will revert to in split second decisions. Don’t give up on what you want. Finally, learn and employ techniques of resiliency; don’t let setbacks keep you down. ACE was a great place to do these things and I felt like I was fulfilling those goals of mine.”

We are proud to feature ACE Alumnus, Dale Thomas. We feel honored that ACE played a role in his service-learning experience, and helped him achieve his goal of turning his corps experience into the career of his dreams.

For more information on ACE Alumni
Contact susie@usaconservation.org

Catching up with EPIC Interns

Although our conservation corps is centralized in the intermountain region of Utah, Arizona, and North Carolina, and in California, ACE also has an Emerging Professional Internship Corps (EPIC) whose geographic scope spans across the entire country. This past week our photojournalist caught up with the three interpretation interns who work between the National Monuments in the Verde Valley of Arizona: Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well, and Tuzigoot.

ACE EPIC Interns at Northern Arizona's National Monuments

ACE EPIC Interns at Montezuma Well National Monument

The ACE interns work alongside National Park Service employees each day. They act as the front line representatives of the National Monuments by interacting one-on-one with visitors; answering questions, selling park passes, and roving the trails. During their internship each individual is required to develop a unique personal program to deliver to visitors.

EPIC Intern engages the monument's visitors

EPIC Intern Dana Henze engages the monument’s visitors

“There’s so much history here,” said Dana Henze, who has been an intern at the monuments for 2 months. “And it’s a great learning opportunity. It is a great way to get a foot in the door and learn about the ins and outs of the Park Service. I hope to become a wildlife biologist for the National Park Service someday, and I feel that this internship is helping to prepare me for that career,” she explained.

Dana Henze

EPIC Intern Dana Henze

The EPIC internship program allows youth to explore, connect, and preserve America’s natural and cultural resources as they gain professional skills and cultivate their careers in the resource management field. For further details, including how to apply, visit EPIC’s dedicated program pages.

The Youth Conservation Corps

ACE Arizona is currently hosting Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crews out of its Flagstaff office. YCC is a summer employment program for young adults aged 15 to 18. The program encourages youth from all backgrounds to work and learn together by completing projects to help protect public lands. The program provides youth the opportunity to work alongside government employees with the National Park Service and the Forest Service.

YCC training

YCC training

An ACE crew leader supervises and motivates the YCC group throughout the project. This past week we had two different groups of YCC volunteers – one was working in Navajo National Monument just south of the Utah border, and the other at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument in Flagstaff.

YCC @ Sunset Crater

YCC @ Sunset Crater

The crew at Navajo National monument was doing a variety of work to assist Park Service employees, including building picnic tables and maintaining a popular, scenic trail in a backcountry area of the park. “It’s been a lot of fun working with these guys because they work really hard and each bring something different and positive to the group” explained crew leader Allie Devor while helping her crew to clean drains along the Keet Seel trail in Navajo National Monument. The crew is made up of local high school students who all live outside the monument on the Navajo Reservation. “I learn something new every day from this group, from hearing about their culture to problem solving about work on a project” she said.

YCC crew at work @Navajo National Monument

YCC crew at work @Navajo National Monument

The second YCC crew was maintaining a new trail in Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and also assisting Park Service employees with a high line rigging system in Walnut Canyon National Monument. Both teens in the crew had worked for YCC in the summer of 2014 and returned again this year. “I wanted to do YCC again because I really like this kind of work. It gets me out of the house,” laughed Tori Cibitello, while taking a break from repairing the out slope of the new trail in Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. “It’s cool to make something that lasts—I can come back in the future and say, “I did this!”

YCC Crew working @Sunset Crater National Monument

YCC Crew working @Sunset Crater National Monument

The YCC program is imperative for several reasons; it helps to involve kids in meaningful, engaging conservation projects that benefit their community as well as the environment, and it gives young adults the chance to start building their work experience to prepare for a job in the future.

ACE Crews @ Grand Canyon National Park

Every year, ACE crews have the privilege to work in arguably one of the most beautiful National Parks in the country—the Grand Canyon. ACE’s summer work season always begins with work on the north rim of the canyon, and once complete, crews move to the south rim.

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They perform routine maintenance including cleaning water bars and check steps, re-dirting the trail where necessary, and clearing out irrigation ditches. They focus on the three main historic corridor trails: North and South Kaibab, and Bright Angel.

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These trails are the most popular in the park, and have a very high volume of pedestrian and mule traffic. “Trails at the Grand Canyon are so different,” explained crew leader Evan Thibodeau. “The trails drainages are on the inslope, which is opposite of most trails. The work we are doing is an effort to help prevent erosion from the outside of the trail.”

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The work that ACE crews do in Grand Canyon National Park is imperative to prepare the trails for the onslaught of traffic and monsoon rains that they will sustain this summer.

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ACE In The News

ACE features in the Prescott Daily Courier as construction of the final section of the Prescott Circle Trail is now under way. ACE Arizona Director Matt Roberts has been extensively involved in the project, along with corps members based out of our Flagstaff office.

Thanks to everyone at ACE who has contributed to the project, and to the City of Prescott, the Yavapai Trails Association.

Read the full story in the Prescott Daily Courier.

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