Blog

Featured Project

Viewing posts tagged Featured Project

Wire Mesa Mountain Bike Trail Project – Utah

dsc_4799

The end of 2016 had a number of successful projects for ACE. To round out the year our ACE Utah had a crew working in Wire Mesa located about 40 minutes east of Hurricane Utah. This ACE crew was lead by Roderick Flannery with the objective to build a mountain biking trail.

dsc_4678

Wire Mesa and surrounding areas are prominent destinations for mountain bikers. The project has been working closely in partnership with the Saint George Bureau of Land Management and the Dixie Mountain Bike Trails Association from planning and design to approval.

dsc_4720

This trail has had to be rerouted and altered to protect many archaeological sites as well Pinyon and Juniper trees, some of which are over 500 years old. Part of the trail travels along an open ridge and overlooks some of the area’s stunning red rock formations.

dsc_4874

There will be one more crew going out to this site to finish the 6.4 miles of trail. The crew was given a mountain bike on loan to test the trails width and to aid in the planning of the route. Mountain bikes require a wider path for turns and higher clearance from trees. The crew is clearing the path by manually with handsaws and chainsaws as well as clearing rocks and other obstacles from the route.

dsc_4761

Lake Mead – Song Dog Native Plant Nursery

dsc_3249-2This past October 2016 an ACE Arizona crew, in partnership with the National Park Service, was working at Song Dog Native Plant Nursery in Lake Mead, Nevada. The scope of the project was to prepare the greenhouse and nursery to host new plants.30588307046_f23f35f14a_k

The crew was a compilation of corps members from ACE’s California and Arizona branches led by crew leader, Morgane Rigney

dsc_3506

The goal is to get over 30,000 seedlings to a plantable size by next year for restoration projects. ACE’s efforts were focused on helping the nursery reach this goal by assisting with an array of different tasks.dsc_3705

The nursery salvages plants that have been saved from natural disaster or construction sites, as well as raising their own plants. The crew helped clean up plant storage areas, washed pots for new plants, recycled soil from plants that didn’t make it and sowed Joshua Tree seeds.30507395192_bfc779aa64_k

Crew members prepared the cartridges for the seeds, mixed the soil, and then placed the Joshua Tree seeds into the cartridges. The nursery has a goal of over 10,000 Joshua Trees for the future. In the past crews have also assisted in the cleaning and drying of plant seeds. 30624321805_e45d52ab18_k

This project will continue into next year with crews weeding, planting and building fence for the nursery.

 

 

 

Restoration | Bitter Lake NWR

A crew of 6 just finished a month long hitch doing restoration work at the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The Bitter Lake Refuge sits above an aquifer, running down from the Capitan Mountains to the west of Roswell NM, and eventually feeds into the Pecos River. ACE Corps member Peter Schaffer was part of the project and shared his experiences of the project.

Being monsoon season in the south west, the crew would watch storms form over the solitary peak outside of Roswell. Sadly, the rain rarely reached the refuge to cool the crew. However even though the rain was not always there to cool the crew, they did get to witness firsthand how the water falling in the northern range would be absorbed into the system, before being pushed up towards the surface forming brackish sinkholes and leached through spring-like vents and feeding creeks and rivers throughout the refuge. ACE Corps member Peter Schaffer stated that this refuge is “truly an unsuspecting place, and, as the refuge’s visitor center tour heavily emphasized, it really is an oasis in the desert. It may seem cliche, but a closer examination of the geographical properties of this place helped put this project’s importance in perspective for me.”

P1030586

The ACE crew worked with US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) refuge staff on many of the projects and began to understand how complex restoration work is. Peter explained: “Bitter Lake struck me as a great demonstration of how uniquely balanced the desert (or any ecosystem for that matter) can be for creating a plethora of life that has evolved in congruence with the terrain. The flora in the area love the brackish water; the bugs certainly don’t mind either. There are 5 endangered species on the [Bitter Lake] refuge, most of which live in and around these vents and sinkholes. They are dependent on the land and water with which they are so uniquely intertwined, and ACE’s efforts in the past few years have been within these areas, which had been heavily affected by invasive flora. While I have worked on other restoration projects that were in the early or middle stages of treatment, I began to see how this multi-year process of hard work can pay off in truly restoring and balancing these incredibly unique area around the refuge.”

P1030618

During the final days of the project, Corps members were able to plant native grasses along one of the creeks, and within the next year or two these species to proliferate. “It’s a good example of that tortoise/hare (or jack-rabbit) mentality, which has been hard for me to learn how to accomplish and improve upon while being in ACE. It seems that good restoration work requires an innately slow, careful touch in order to be successful. Missing a plant that can pollinate and spread seed over an area means that the end goal gets pushed back further. Treating ten miles of river in a day may sound good on a project report, but it may mean that the true goal of these kinds of projects was missed. I could see how ACE had fulfilled that necessity at Bitter Lake, and I hope that our crew continued in producing that high quality of work and diligence”, Peter added.

Thanks to the crew for their hard work on the project, and to Peter for taking the time to share his experiences.

Log Out | Dixie National Forest

ACE Utah’s crosscut sawyers recently teamed up to complete a complex log-out project on the Pine Valley Ranger District of Dixie National Forest. The project site was a wilderness trail that had been covered by dead and downed trees caused by an avalanche slide. The avalanche debris covered the trail and water tributary.

27270787712_acc73b59a6_k

Due to the sheer volume of debris, the Forest Service was considering the use of explosive to clear the way. This is not without complications, however, and therefore the Forest Service turned to ACE for help.

27367787985_501b0f759a_k

The ACE crew worked very hard to manually cut and remove all the logs, and the then rebuild the trail tread. Being in a wilderness area the use of chainsaws was prohibited and thus the crew used crosscut saws to complete the project.

The crew was led by David Frye who now heads off to work for ACE California in the Inyo National Forest. AmeriCorps member Brice Koach commented that his favorite part of the project was “practicing his crosscut and axe skills all while spending time with a great crew.”

27270469292_2b814059c8_k

Rock work | Rogers Lake (Part I)

A crew from ACE Arizona partnered with Coconino County to build a stone staircase to an overlook of Rogers Lake County Natural Area, just south of ACE Arizona’s home city of Flagstaff. This crew is also responsible for the maintenance of two trails leading to the lake: the 2-Spot Trail and the Gold Digger Trail. The latter trail is named after 1890s folklore in which outlaws, on the run from the local sheriff, dug a hole in the then-frozen Rogers Lake and deposited their barrels of gold. To this day, people come treasure hunting — some even come from out of state — according to Geoffrey Gross, Natural Resource Supervisor for Coconino County Parks & Recreation.

Coconino County purchased the Rogers Lake County Natural Area in 2010 and began trail work to improve access for visitors in 2013. Although the lake often fills with water in the spring, it remains dry most of the year. “I think the goal is to make the area more accessible destination,” said Joel Marona, an ACE Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family (GOYFF) intern.

Geoffrey Gross said Coconino County Parks & Recreation is planning to have a grand opening of the overlook by the end of summer. Over the coming days we will feature a 3 part photostory on the progress of the project to construct the stone staircase at Rogers Lake.

Crew Strategizes leverage points with rock bar

1. Rogers Lake

The Rogers Lake project includes a variety of responsibilities, but the top priority is to construct a five-step staircase, providing an overlook to Lake Rogers, its wildlife, and a view of the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff. In this photos, the ACE Corps members strategize the best leverage points for adjusting the top stair with their rock bars.

Communicating with Project Partners

2. Rogers Lake

Project partner Geoffrey Gross, Natural Resource Supervisor at Coconino County Parks & Recreation, visits the ACE crew to check on the progress.

“This crew has been great to work with and has already accomplished a lot. We already knew ACE crews are really good at stonework – they’re our go-to for stonework — and thats important as want this staircase and overlook to be a showpiece of the area.”

Gross said the overlook will have interpretative signage and spotting scopes for wildlife viewing. Elk, deer, antelope and migrating waterfowl are frequently spotted in the area, Gross said.

Look out for Part II and Part III of this photostory on Friday June 17 and Monday June 20 – links will be posted on our Facebook page.

Rock work | Rogers Lake (Part II)

Part II of our photostory following the construction of a stone staircase to an overlook of Rogers Lake County Natural Area, just south of ACE Arizona’s home city of Flagstaff.

Breaking new ground

3. Rogers Lake

Sarah Komisar begins drilling the first of five holes, the initial stage of several in a process to crack the large bedrock that’s inhibiting the placement of anchors for the staircase. Komisar said this staircase is especially challenging because it needs to be aesthetically pleasing. Komisar described searching distant rock piles for potential steps — four feet wide and two feet back — as “shopping at the rock store.”

“I’ve done a lot of rock work since being at ACE” Komisar said. “It definitely tests my patience, cause it’s so time-consuming and it’s just problem-solving all day. But I think it’s the most rewarding type of trail work, because there’s such a massive result. It’s pretty satisfying.”

Placing the feathers

4. Rogers Lake

Joel Bulthuis places feathers into the holes drilled by Sarah Komisar. Once the feathers are securely wedged into the rock, the crew will repeatedly hammer them with a single-jack, gradually stressing, and eventually cracking the bedrock.

Checking on Progress

5. Rogers Lake

ACE Corps member Joel Marona assesses the headway made on the rock staircase. Marona said that for him, this project has been a “dream hitch,” requiring technical rock work, tread work and even some chain-sawing. “I started conservation work so young, and I idolized the culture and crew leaders, but I thought it was just seasonal. Coming to ACE and being able to work in conservation year-round — it’s a dream come true.”

Part 1 of this photostory can be found here and Part 3 here.

Rock Work | Rogers Lake (Part III)

Part III of our photostory following the construction of a stone staircase to an overlook of Rogers Lake County Natural Area, just south of ACE Arizona’s home city of Flagstaff.

Feather Pitch

6. Rogers Lake

Sarah Komisar laughs as she strikes the feathers with the single-jack. Each feather has a different pitch when struck. “It’s so beautiful!” she exclaims.

Rock Chiseling

7a. Joel chiseling

After a team effort to crack the bedrock, Joel Bulthuis chisels away at the base.

Establishment of a rock staircase

8. Rogers Lake

Within just a few hours, the bedrock is mostly chiseled away, Caryn Ross and Nikki Andresen work on crushing rock beneath the third stair, for the foundation. This is Andresen’s last hitch. She said she’s most sad to be leaving her crew mates – her friends and newfound community, but that she’s grateful for her time at ACE.

“Feeling the public’s appreciation for what we do was probably the most rewarding part,” Andresen said. “In Yarnell [another ACE Arizona project], people would come up to us and say, ‘Thank you so much for building this memorial trail.’ In Apache [Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest], they’d come up and say they were so grateful for our help to save the Douglas Fir Trees. Here — I plan on coming back some day. And I know I’ll use these trails and see other people using them… I know I’ll be back.”

Drilling and crushing

9. Rogers Lake

The crew continues work on the staircase, facing Rogers Lake. We’ll revisit this story once again when the trail is finished!

Kochi Removal | Pecos National Historic Park

A crew of six Corps Members successfully finished a project at Pecos National Historic Park, a park unit that preserves the ruins of Pecos (Ciquique) Pueblo close to Santa Fe, New Mexico

The aim of the project was to mechanically remove Kochia scoria, often referred to as Kochia, a large annual herb native to Eurasia. Within the United States, Kochia is an invasive species, particularly in the desert plains of the south west. Kochia is able to rapidly spread and competes with native vegetation for nutrients, light, and soil moisture. Furthermore, Kochia releases chemicals into the soil that can suppress the growth other plants, preventing the native plants from germinating.

P1030856

While at Pecos NHS, the crew learned about the importance of restoring the park’s land in order to preserve the archaeological sites which included pottery shards and burial sites. To contribute to this restoration effort, the Corps Members used brush cutters to remove the Kochia. After 8 day of hard work the crew had covered 7.48 acres of the park, which had about 80% invasive coverage.

The crew’s favorite part of the week was working with the knowledgeable NPS staff who constantly provided them with information on the culture of the people who once inhabited the land we were working on, allowing us to put the restoration work into context.

P1030911

Bark Beetle Pheromone Installation | Apache-Sitgreaves NF

Two ACE crews are currently working on a project to protect Douglas-fir trees from Bark Beetle infestations in the Apache- Sitgreaves National Forest. The crew’s mission is to install pheromone bubble capsules to large Douglas-fir trees in campgrounds and recreation areas in the Alpine and Springerville Ranger Districts – areas affected by The Wallow Fire, a wildfire in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico that occurred in 2011.

P1000428

Preparing the MCH pheromone bubble capsules for installation

The MCH pheromone is a naturally occurring anti-aggregation pheromone of the Douglas-fir & Spruce beetles. MCH works by replicating the beetle pheromone that tells other beetles the tree is full and that the food supply is insufficient for additional beetles. Arriving beetles receive the ‘message’ that they should look elsewhere for a suitable host, thus preventing beetle infestations. The approach is environmentally safe and non-toxic to humans, pets, birds and even the beetles themselves.

P1000106

Tree identification

In past years the crews have used the grid treatment, creating a pheromone buffer around valued sites. This year the crew has switched methods to individual tree treatment.

P1000503

MCH capsule installation

Prior to starting the project, Corps Members completed a full week of training with Forest Service staff covering tree identification, compass and GPS use, pacing, tree Diameter at Breast Height (DBH), and proper capsule installation. Due to the complexity of the project crew members have learned how to fill out paperwork which captures the data for this project​.

P1000485

Feedback from the project has been extremely positive. Corps Members said that they have really enjoyed the project and all the technical skills that they have learned. They enjoy working with our project partner Monica Boehning, and appreciate her passion for the project. The crew has also enjoyed the amazing camping at Big Lake Campground and East Fork.

#IamACE | Stephany Ninette Gonzalez

Our latest installment of IamACE brings us back to our headquarters in Flagstaff, Arizona. When we caught up with her, new Corps member Stephany Ninette Gonzalez was working in one of the most magnificent parks, Grand Canyon, National Park.

[ACE]: Can you tell me about your background?


[SNG]:I’m from California. I went to school at the university of La Verne. I graduated this past January with a bachelor’s in biology. I have a concentration in pre-health, but towards the end of my studies I decided to focus more on the environment, because my senior thesis was about environmental work. Since I really didn’t take too many environmental classes during my studies, I decided when I graduated to just experience a lot of different environmental work. I’m 22, and I just started with ACE—this is my first hitch.

What motivated you to get into conservation?




I was looking for jobs and found this one through usajobs.org. It sounded really cool, it seemed like I’d be able to get opportunities in experiencing a wide variety of projects. That’s what I wanted, so I could figure out what path I want to take for my career.

Any goals for the future when you’re done with this position?




It depends on what type of work I fall in love with here. We’ll see!

IMG_7554

Do you think this position is helping you prepare for the future?




Yeah, definitely! Experience is a big thing in the workforce. So after ACE when I’m looking for a job, I can say, “look at all the projects I’ve worked on!” It’ll give me a foot in the door.

What do you think sets ACE apart from other organizations?



Other organizations that I applied for had a specific objective that you’d work on for a few months to a year, and that’s all you would learn. But with ACE, it gives you this big variety of things you can learn.

Do you have any advice for people looking to join ACE or get into conservation?


Have an open mind. You’re going to meet a lot of different people with a lot of different opinions. Be flexible.

Restorative Trail Maintenance | Grand Canyon National Park

We recently visited a crew working at Grand Canyon National Park which lies just north of Flagstaff, where ACE’s Intermountain Region Headquarters are located. The crew was performing routine maintenance on the Bright Angel Trail, the most popular hiking trail within the Grand Canyon.

IMG_7539

Each year, melting snow and ice cause erosion that can render parts of the trail unsafe for visitors. ACE partners with the National Park Service annually to perform restorative maintenance. “For this project, we are working on clearing a specific drain about 1.5 miles down Bright Angel Trail,” explained crew leader Isabel Grattan. “The drainage ditch on the inside of the trail was covered in rocks and boulders that were washed down after the snowmelt. This prevented the water from draining properly and caused it to destroy a retaining wall.”

IMG_7583

The crew began the hitch by using wheelbarrows to haul all the rocks that had fallen into the drain down the trail so that NPS staff could use them to repair the retaining wall. Safety is always imperative during any ACE hitch, but it was even more important for this project because of the numerous hikers and equestrians traveling up and down the trail throughout the day. The crewmembers had to be very alert and communicative to each other and to park visitors to ensure a safe working environment.

IMG_7581

The corps members worked hard throughout the hitch to move all the rocks from the drainage. The NPS employees then crushed the rocks with sledgehammers for use rebuilding retaining wall. By the end of the 9-day project, the crew and NPS had replaced a significant section of the wall with crushed rock that was 2 feet wide, 30 feet long, and 6 feet deep.

IMG_7711

ACE will continue working with NPS throughout the spring to maintain the popular hiking trails in the park. The Bright Angel Trail is accessible from the south rim entrance of Grand Canyon National Park.

Trail building | Yarnell, AZ

On January 27th, ACE crews began work on a precipitous hillside just outside of Yarnell, Arizona, to build a trail that upon completion will stretch 2.5 miles across the rocky landscape. The project is huge in scope—3 crews of 8 members will be working diligently alongside numerous crew leaders, staff members, and state parks employees for the next few months to complete their goal. However, there is another aspect of the project that gives it much greater significance. The 320-acre swath of land that includes the trail will soon become the Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial State Park, to commemorate the 19 hotshot firefighters who lost their lives while battling the 800-acre Yarnell Hill fire on the morning of June 30th, 2013.

24776923890_377f969068_k

The trail initially traverses a very steep slope, and once crossing the ridge, descends into a boulder field with an overlook that will allow visitors to view the fatality site. They will also be able to descend further into the actual area where the firefighters lost their lives. The rocky and harsh landscape means that the building of the trail is highly technical, and crews are using a variety of hand tools, power tools, and griphoist rigging equipment to eradicate large rocks from the path of the trail and build sturdy, safe staircases to make the ascension easier for hikers. This is a big undertaking, but ACE has tackled many large-scale projects in challenging environments with tight timeframes. However, the Yarnell trail is unique because of its emotional factor. “Every project in ACE matters, but we’re not just approaching this one from a conservation point of view like we normally do,” explained Project Field Coordinator Jack McMullin. “It also has this heavy human aspect. The community has been so supportive of our work. We visited a museum last hitch because we were rained out of work one day, and speaking to the people who worked there about the fire and the work we are doing was a really amazing experience. One man who talked to us was almost in tears. It’s that emotional.”

24441994864_97a88c1c4a_k

On Wednesday the 17th, crews were nearing completion of the first .42-mile section of the trail up to the ridgeline. “Once we cross the ridgeline, it’s boulder city. There are massive rocks everywhere. It’s going to be awesome, and so technical. The way the trail is situated is great, because this first half mile has given everyone time to get used to rock work and get some practice in, and then once we get over the hill they’ll have to really put their skills to the test,” said McMullen.

24776899990_4209aa1e8c_k

When creating trails, ACE strives to make sustainable routes that provide a corridor for the public to safely enjoy the beauty of nature, in turn protecting the landscape itself. “We’re still focusing on those goals with this project,” Trails Coordinator Mark Loseth affirmed, “and we’ve done bigger projects than this logistically. But the product of our work here will be a dedication to the 19 men who lost their lives in the Yarnell Hill Fire. So when you think about it in that respect, it’s the biggest project that I’ve undertaken with ACE.”

ACE will continue to cover the Yarnell project until its completion. Stay tuned for more upcoming blog posts!

24445733033_e52dfde610_k

Invasive Species Removal | Saguaro National Park

Recently, we met with our crew at Saguaro National Park in southern Arizona, where 8 corps members have been stationed for a month long project. The crew has been performing invasive species transects alongside employees of the National Park Service, among other tasks. Last week, the group was specifically focused on locating the Matla starthisle, a plant listed as a noxious weed in Arizona. However, they also kept an eye out for other invasive plants such as sow thistle and buffelgrass.

IMG_4771

To begin a transect, the crew forms a line with about three meters between each member, and then they proceed through the desert and hunt for the specific plants. If a plant is discovered, its location is noted on a GPS unit. The primary goal of the crew during this project is to focus on the removal of invasive species, but they will also help to perform saguaro and border impact surveys and attend informational lectures. “The NPS staff we are working with are great. Working closely with them provides us a great opportunity to learn about the area from professionals,” explained crew leader Marianne Keith, “and staff at this park in particular has been great about incorporating that educational aspect into the work, which is really important to me.”

IMG_4818

The removal of these species is important because an invasive plant has the ability to spread aggressively outside its natural range, which can disrupt natural habitats by choking out native plant life, altering ecosystems, and thereby reducing biodiversity. The work required to remove invasive species can be repetitive, but an intimate knowledge of all the plant species in the area is imperative in order for the corps members to be as efficient as possible. Identifying plants can be especially difficult in the Sonoran desert, which is the most biologically diverse desert ecosystem in North America with over 2,000 native plant species!

IMG_4846

Corps members find this kind of work very rewarding. “This is my favorite project I’ve been on so far.” said corps member Autumn Rooks. Autumn started her term with ACE working for our North Carolina branch, but briefly relocated to the Arizona branch for the remainder of her term. “We’ve been learning how to identify so many different plant species that I’ve never seen before, like creosote, London rocket, palo verde, and many types of cholla.”

IMG_4789

Maricopa Trail, Arizona

ACE staff and crews have returned from the holiday break and are hard at work once more restoring and maintaining public lands throughout the country. Our ACE Arizona crews have started work in central and southern Arizona where the temperatures are a bit warmer than those in Flagstaff and the surrounding area.

IMG_3831

The first project of the year brought our crews to Maricopa County, just outside of Phoenix. The goal of the project is to perform maintenance on the Maricopa Trail, which stretches 240 miles and connects the 10 regional parks in the area. ACE is partnered with Maricopa County for this project, and the crew has been working with John Rose, who is the trails supervisor for the region. The county boasts an extensive trail network that far exceeds many public land areas.

IMG_3767

The crews are performing routine trail maintenance in order to prepare for the inaugural Prickly Pedal race, which will span 40 miles. Proceeds from the race will benefit the Maricopa Trail and Park Foundation, a nonprofit organization which strives to provide sustainable financial support to the newly constructed Maricopa Regional Trail System. Preparations for the event began six months ago, and this maintenance is the final step in ensuring the safety and accessibility of the trail for the racers. Corps members are doing everything from moving large rocks (tripping hazards) off the path to re-establishing the slope, brushing the corridor, and clearing drains.

IMG_3785

“An important aspect of trail maintenance is clearing and repairing drains,” said Trails Coordinator Mark Loseth. “We want to create a clear path to move water off the path to prevent erosion and improve sustainability.”

IMG_3819

Making a route sustainable enough for continued long-term usage assures that recreation will be safe and enjoyable, which brings more people out to enjoy the land, and in turn can renew interest in nature and create new job opportunities. “This trail embodies the idea that public lands should be safely accessible for the public to enjoy and appreciate,” explained crew leader Bryan Wright. “On this trail, as with all trails we work on, the goal is to localize traffic, minimizing the impact on the vegetation and wildlife in the area.”

IMG_3800

The Prickly Pedal Mountain Bike Race will be held on the 23rd of this month. More information can be found at www.pricklypedal.com.

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.

2015-12-02-02.44.16

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.

2015-12-02-03.14.34

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

2015-12-02-02.37.52

Tamarisk Removal along the Virgin River, UT

Last week, a crew finished a hitch working on the Virgin River near St. George, Utah. Crews have been hard at work removing invasive Tamarisk trees from the banks of the Virgin River.

A corps member removes Tamarix from the bank of the Virgin River

A corps member removes Tamarix from the bank of the Virgin River

Tamarisk is extremely invasive in riparian areas, often completely replacing native vegetation with impenetrable thickets of the plants. In this particular area, Tamarisk has altered the morphology of the river, negatively impacting the habitat of the native flora and fauna. A goal of the project is to initiate the process of restoring the area to its original state, ensuring that native species can reestablish and flourish once more.

Crew leader Michael Stapleton shows some corps members a topographical map of the area they will be working in.

Crew leader Michael Stapleton shows some corps members a topographical map of the area they will be working in.

Where once the river was shallow and wide — ideal conditions for native fish species such as the wound fin and the Virgin River chub — the Tamarisk trees now grow so thick that their huge root systems prevent the natural erosion of the bank. As a consequence, the river becomes centralized, deep, and cold. This type of non-historic river morphology causes challenging conditions for these two endangered species.

A corpsmember uses a chainsaw to cut invasive Tamarix on a cold morning

A corpsmember uses a chainsaw to cut invasive Tamarix on a cold morning

The project also seeks to re-establish nesting sites for the Southwestern willow flycatcher, an endangered species of bird that lives in riparian areas and whose habitat has been altered by the invasion and establishment of stands of pure Tamarisk. ACE is partnered with BLM, the Virgin River Partnership, and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources on this project, which has been ongoing throughout 2015. “I’ve always been really impressed with ACE,” said project partner Bob Douglas. “They have great work ethic and they are very safety conscious.”

Corpsmembers clip the smaller Tamarix stalks with loppers, being careful to avoid cutting any young native willow saplings

Corpsmembers clip the smaller Tamarix stalks with loppers, being careful to avoid cutting any young native willow saplings

This project has required many hours of very hard work over a long period of time, and the efforts of everyone involved will help to restore this area to it’s original state.

Commute into work

Commute into work

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.

IMG_0661

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.

IMG_0791

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.

IMG_0868

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.

IMG_0713

Zion NP revegetation

On November 13th, an ACE Utah crew completed a re-vegetation project in Zion National Park. The crew worked alongside NPS staff repairing areas where heavy equipment and major road construction activities had removed or damaged vegetation on a section of the scenic Kolob Terrace Road.

zion2

Roadsides in this area of the park are very susceptible to erosion, and in order to stabilize the sediment in this vulnerable area, crews planted a collection of native grasses, shrubs, and cacti. The attention to detail, and careful consideration of each plant will be key to the long term success of each planting.

zion1

Working alongside NPS staff provided a great opportunity for crew members to learn from the staff’s experience and knowlege and provided opportunities for crew members to show off ACE’s work ethic and culture. “The NPS staff said this was one of the best crews they have worked with,” affirmed field operations manager David ‘Skip’ Siesel, “and the area was really beautiful.” Although the project was short, the work will allow park visitors to witness the gorgeous plant species native to Utah.

zion5

ACE CA at Mount Hermon

ACE California often partners with Mount Hermon, a family-oriented camp, conference, and concert center located just outside of Santa Cruz, CA. Mount Hermon is nestled in the towering Santa Cruz mountains redwoods and it attracts more than 60,000 visitors each year, many of which are part of school groups.

Ryan Smith carrying brush

As a neighbor, ACE California helps out at Mount Hermon however it can. We often send crews to Mount Hermon to help with a variety of projects ranging from roadside brushing to fuel reduction, and trail work to ecological restoration.

Crew Moving Planks

Last week Mount Hermon hosted a crew of 11 ACE California Corps Members and volunteers. Led by Crew Leader Jake Homovich, the crew completed a rock work project on a trail that circumnavigates the Mount Hermon Conference center.

Trail Work 1

Mount Hermon is a popular project location among our crews; rather than preparing breakfast, packing lunch, and cooking dinner after work, crews at Mount Hermon are often served breakfast, lunch, and dinner by the camp’s kitchen.

Crew Picture

Later this week, from November 19, ACE California will be hosting a school group from Providence Day School in North Carolina at Mount Hermon. For 4 days the students will experience life at Mount Hermon and participate in a range of conservation-focused projects and educational sessions prepared by ACE Staff and AmeriCorps members. We’re very excited and look forward to bringing you more new of that project soon!

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.

IMG_0589

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.

IMG_0581

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.”

Mount Tallac Trail Project – Lake Tahoe, California

It has been another successful summer in the Lake Tahoe Basin for ACE California. This marks the sixth summer that our crews have been working in partnership with the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, which commenced in 2009. This relationship was nationally recognized at the American Trails Conference in May, where both ACE and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit received the Partnership Award. This year, the corps members have been eager to continue in the footsteps of the corps members that have come before them.

This year’s projects focused on two major trail re-routes in the Tahoe Basin, initiated to mitigate negative environmental impacts and improve the user experience. One of these projects was the iconic Mount Tallac Trail.

Tahoe-mount-tallac

Tahoe tallac reroute

For four summers, ACE corps members have worked tirelessly to improve this hugely popular Mount Tallac Trail. Under the leadership of Ryan Kuehn, the ACE crew spent the summer camping in the back country of the Desolation Wilderness, building a 3,600ft long re-route. This has realigned the trail onto a more south-facing aspect of the mountain to ensure that the snow will melt in advance of the busy summer season. Additionally, the new trail crosses through a talus field, providing a more sustainable path than that of the old trail, which traversed fragile alpine vegetation and was severely eroded. The crew moved over 15,000 cubic feet of rock during the construction phase of this trail, which is equal to over 1,260 tons or 2.5 million pounds of rock!

As this trail is within a designated wilderness boundary, all work was completed using rock bars or by hand. After the completion of the new trail it was opened to the public and the crew turned their attention to decommissioning and restoring the route of the old trail.

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.

P1020677

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.

P1020660

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.

IMG_9050

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.

IMG_9033

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.

IMG_8916

IMG_8976

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.

IMG_8904

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.

IMG_8631

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.

IMG_8887

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.

IMG_8699

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.

IMG_8602

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.

We're busy conserving the environment