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Invasive Species Removal at Chimney Rock State Park

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

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

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.

 

 

 

Summer in the Smokies

21 High School Interns have just completed their summer internships with ACE in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).

In a series of blog posts, the GSMNP summer interns describe the program and their experiences:

The GSMNP Summer Internship Program is funded by both the Youth Partnership Program and Friends of the Smokies (FOTS). FOTS has supported the program for 16 years, initially providing the salaries for the interns and now funding the program staff salaries.

The program is designed to give the interns a little taste of a variety of activities that rangers are involved with – from fisheries science to botany to forest and stream ecology. The interns gain an understanding of how the park is managed and are introduced to possible career opportunities.

ACE at The Corps Network Conference

Six ACE staff members are currently in Washington D.C. attending The Corps Network Conference. Representing ACE this year are Director of Utah, Jake Powell; Southeast Director, Adam Scherm; Director of California Operations, Eric Robertson; AmeriCorps Program Coordinator-California, Carolyn Getschow; National AmeriCorps Program Coordinator, Bradley Hunter; and National Restoration Program Manager, Afton Mckusick.The Corps Network National Conference is an annual gathering of national, state, and local leaders in the fields of youth development, community service, and the environment. Attendees include approximately 200 Directors and senior staff from Service and Conservation Corps across the country; officials from federal agencies; representatives from philanthropic foundations; and friends and supporters of the Corps movement.

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ACE is a proud partner of The Corps Network and a member of the 21CSC.

Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky.

Rounding up our recent visit to ACE Southeast we feature a project in Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky, where ACE has just completed work in four of the Forest’s Ranger Districts: Redbird, Sterns, London, and Cumberland. Within each Ranger District, the ACE crew worked alongside Forest Service employees on trail projects of various complexity.

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In the Redbird and Stearns Ranger Districts the general focus of the work was to repair and build drains, and brushing the trail to increase the width of the trail corridor.

Over in the London and Cumberland Ranger districts, the crew undertook more technical work including staircase construction, rock work, and new trail construction. Furthermore, the crew assisted the Forest Service with a cleanup project after a spate of recent tornadoes and severe thunderstorms.

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Our photojournalist met up with the crew that was completing work on a trail in the Stearns Ranger District. Brushing the trail was the top priority, but corps members also worked to repair the trail tread. These efforts will increase trail accessibility to visitors.

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During the 14 week project the crew completed more than 50 miles of trail maintenance and new tread construction. The majority of these trail projects are in economically depressed areas, and the Forest Service is hopeful that new trails will reinvigorate tourism in those areas.

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Daniel Boone National Forest is the only national forest completely within the boundary of Kentucky. The forest is geologically very interesting, with numerous arches and rock formations that make it relatively unique in the Southeast. The forest’s namesake, Daniel Boone, was a frontiersman and explorer in the late 18th century who contributed to the exploration and settlement of the state of Kentucky.

Congaree National Park

We recently posted about our ACE Southeast crew that were busy clearing 14 miles of the popular Cedar Creek Canoe Trail in Congaree National Park. We’re delighted to announce that due to the hard work of corps members the crew completed Phase I of the project after just 6 weeks.

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As a result, the crew found themselves back on land, assisting NPS staff with maintenance of the park’s 30+ miles of trails. The first task was to remove unwanted vegetation from campgrounds and roads with hand tools and brush cutters.

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Next up, the crew tackled a huge fallen log that was blocking a hiking trail. Here they used the grip hoist and crosscut saw to remove the obstruction.

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Field Operations Manager Josh Burt explained some of the differences of working in the East, compared to ACE’s desert heartlands: “Working in the East has positive and negative aspects. From an invasive species management perspective, there is a lot of work to do, a lot to combat. But, in doing trail work, we have some advantages…For example, we’re removing this log from the trail by dragging it over the land. In this environment the marks made by this movement will soon be unnoticeable, whereas wouldn’t do that in the deserts of Arizona; the marks on the landscape would last for many years. So although some challenges are much greater there are more options available for how to deal with them.”

The ACE Southeast crew will continue to assist NPS staff and will return to work on Cedar Creek in the weeks to come.

ACE Southeast – Alum Cave Trail Restoration

Earlier in the month we spent some time with ACE Southeast in North Carolina where we visited 3 ongoing projects. Over the coming weeks we will share photos and stories from these projects. First up is the Alum Cave Trail, a popular hiking trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, that is currently subject of a restoration project.

Views from the Alum Cave Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Views from the Alum Cave Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Alum Cave Trail is a popular trail hiking trail within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail features breathtaking views, a variety of flora and fauna, and its namesake Alum Cave, which isn’t actually a cave but a concave bluff that rises about 80 feet high. The trail leads to other iconic areas including Arch Rock, Inspiration Point, and Mt. Le Conte. However, in several narrow areas erosion and landslides have damaged sections of the trail, making it difficult to safely travel through the areas during inclement weather or to pass hikers coming from the opposite direction. By restoring these fragile trail sections, the long-term sustainability and safety of the trail can be ensured. ACE, alongside the NPS Trails Forever Crew, are working on this restoration project. Recently we have had two ACE Southeast crews were out working at separate locations of the trail.

ACE Crews working alongside the NPS

ACE Crews working alongside the NPS

The first of these crews was assisting NPS staff in building a stone staircase. Crew members moved rocks with a grip hoist, and split them into usable sizes with rock drills and doublejacks. They also utilized masonry techniques to shape the rocks.

Alum Cave Trail, Great Smoky Mountains NP - Rock Splitting

The second crew was working farther up the trail on a major trail reconstruction project that involved moving lots of dirt, re-grading the tread, and removing roots and rocks.

Alum Cave Trail, Great Smoky Mountains NP - Drilling

The environment in North Carolina is unique when compared to the other locations in ACE’s Intermountain Region, which lie in the Southwest. “We’re working in a temperate rainforest, which is very different from most of the locations that other ACE crews work in which tend to be desert environments,” said corps member Madison McClaren. The Alum Cave Trail is lined with rhododendron and hemlock, and fog was a prominent feature. “This particular project is cool because it’s such a heavily used trail. After we finish, a thousand people will step over our work every weekend,” said McClaren. “That makes the work much more gratifying.” added fellow corps member Chelsie Stetcher.

This is the first year of a 2 year reconstruction plan of the Alum Cave Trail that ACE crews will continue to participate in.

Canoe Trail Restoration, Congaree National Park

News of a very unique and interesting project from ACE Southeast. Crews there are actively involved in the restoration of over 14 miles of popular canoe trails in Congaree National Park, near Hopkins, South Carolina.

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That’s right, canoe trails. ACE has become somewhat synonymous with trail building and trail maintenance in the deserts of the Southwest, but this is a first, conducting canoe trail maintenance. As we geographically expand so does the scope of our expertise.

ACE corps members suited up for canoe trail restoration

ACE corps members suited up for canoe trail restoration

The ACE crew, led by its fearless leader Isabel Grattan, is using primitive hand tools to clear the popular Cedar Creek Canoe Trail that travels through the heart of Congaree National Park. Cedar Creek is a major part of the dynamic floodplain wilderness area of the park and passes through a primeval old-growth forest which contains some of the tallest trees in eastern North America. The marked trail winds approximately 15 miles through the Congaree Wilderness, starting at Bannister’s Bridge and going all the way to the Congaree River.

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Downed trees and log jams are a common occurrence on Cedar Creek. The ACE corps members paddle 2-4 miles a day in their two-person canoes and use cross-cut saws, hand saws, and loppers to clear away large trees and debris that have fallen over the creek during the previous late summer and winter storms. This work is vital in improving the conditions for park visitors who would otherwise need to portage around these obstacles.

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Congaree National Park was established in 2003 and is home to many champion trees (largest of their species) and a wide variety of reptiles, amphibians, as well as fish-eating spiders. Paddling the Cedar Creek trail is arguably the best way to experience the Park.

Views from the canoe

Views from the canoe

ACE in The Corps Network Crew Leader

The latest edition of The Corps Network Crew Leader features an interview with Michael Muckle, the Director of the New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg. In the interview Michael talks about his excitement about developing a partnership with ACE, in particular putting ‘Waders In The Water’ trained corps members to work in New Jersey. The nationally recognized Waders in the Water training provides corps members with the skills and capacity to professionally complete aquatic restoration projects while preparing them for careers in the private restoration industry. Trout Headwaters Inc provides ACE Corps Members with the ‘Waders in the Water’ training that is instrumental to the project.

We at ACE are also very excited to be a part of this partnership, and to work alongside the corps members of the New Jersey Youth Corps. ACE and New Jersey Youth Corps are currently working side by side on the Mullica River headlands restoration project in New Jersey, planting native plant species.

Sunrise along the Mullica River

Sunrise along the Mullica River

For the full article please visit The Corps Network Crew Leader, or The Corps Network’s website.

Featured Project – Mullica River Restoration, New Jersey

ACE is currently at work in the state of New Jersey, restoring a wetland area along the Mullica River. The project is a collaboration of for-profit and non-profit organizations: GreenVest LLC is the sponsor and experienced leader in ecosystem restoration projects; Trout Headwaters Inc is a Montana-based industry leader in sustainable stream, wetland, and habitat restoration; and the New Jersey Youth Corps, a ‘second-chance’ program which offers youth aged between 16-25 the opportunity to both earn a high school-equivalent qualification, and gain work skills, through meaningful community service.

ACE AZ Director Jordan Rolfe, ACE Southeast Director Adam Scherm, and ACE volunteer Bhriana Malcolm complete an 'H' brace

ACE AZ Director Jordan Rolfe, ACE Southeast Director Adam Scherm, and ACE volunteer Bhriana Malcolm complete an ‘H’ brace

ACE is working with GreenVest to install over 4,000 ft of perimeter fencing to protect future plantings in a restored wetlands area at the headwaters of the Mullica River, in the heart of the Pinelands of southern New Jersey, just west of Wharton State Forest. On March 19, the crew will complete the perimeter fence which stands 8 feet tall, which will prevent deer from eating future plantings, and restrict the access of UTV traffic that would otherwise disturb the area.

The ACE Crew secure the fence to the posts.  ACE is installing 4,000ft of perimeter fence in the Murrica River headlands.

The ACE Crew secure the fence to the posts. ACE is installing 4,000ft of perimeter fence in the Murrica River headlands.

Trout Headwaters was instrumental to this project by providing ACE Corps Members with ‘Waders in the Water’ training. The nationally recognized Waders in the Water training provides corps members with the skills and capacity to professionally complete acquatic restoration projects while preparing them for careers in the private restoration industry.

In April, after the perimeter fencing is complete, ACE crews will work alongside youth from the New Jersey Youth Corps to plant native species in and around the wetlands. After 5 years, the fencing will be removed and the restored wetlands habitat will be a thriving ecosystem.

We're busy conserving the environment