This June, millions of people will recognize Great Outdoors Month: a celebration of the many ways to enjoy America’s lands and waters. Visitation at parks and forests is growing, which is good news for our health and for communities that surround outdoor destinations. However, more visitors means our trails, campgrounds, and picnic areas are deteriorating. This is where AmeriCorps members and volunteers can play a role.
Every year, Conservation Corps across the country partner with local, state, and federal parks to engage thousands of AmeriCorps members in completing critical maintenance projects.
To celebrate the importance of service outdoors, The Corps Network, the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps, held their sixth-annual Great Outdoors Day of Service on June 14 at Theodore Roosevelt Island in Washington, D.C. More than 200 people helped clear trails, repair boardwalks, and fight poison ivy. Among the volunteers was Director of AmeriCorps Chester Spellman, as well as dozens of AmeriCorps members from Conservation Corps throughout the Mid-Atlantic.
This event was just a representation of the enormous amount of work Conservation Corps do for public lands and waters every year. In 2018 alone, “Corpsmembers” built or improved nearly 14,000 miles of trail, restored over 1.4 million acres of habitat, and planted more than 1 million trees!
Here are just a few examples of how AmeriCorps members in Conservation Corps #ServeOutdoors.
William Olivares is an AmeriCorps member with Los Angeles Conservation Corps. He recently helped plant trees at a park near the Crenshaw neighborhood. This involved digging trenches and installing an irrigation system to ensure the trees receive enough water.
“You can help make communities and parks look better for people. The park we planted trees at didn’t even have grass! You can gain experience and it makes you feel really good about yourself to be able to give back to the community. One day I can look back and say, ‘I did that!’”
AmeriCorps members from Southeast Conservation Corps recently served at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park to restore the original fence that bordered the Dyer Farm during the Civil War battle of Chickamauga. With guidance from the National Park Service, and with an old map as a guide, the crew constructed the 700-foot fence using modern tools, but traditional practices.
Hannah Azouz is a 24-year-old AmeriCorps member with Kupu, an organization based in Honolulu, HI. Hannah has completed watershed restoration projects on the southeast of O’ahu and helped restore native ecosystems.
“There's nothing better than calling a mountain, estuary, beach, or island your office. Take care of the land that takes care of us.”
A crew of AmeriCorps members from Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa served on a maintenance project at a unique place to recreate outdoors: a water park surrounded by trees! They put their plant identification skills to work as they weeded and mulched around the structures.
Last fall, AmeriCorps members with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps-New Mexico cleared trails at Bandelier National Monument. Some parts of the park are designated wilderness areas, meaning the crew could only use non-motorized tools, like crosscut saws, to remove hazardous trees and trail obstructions. These efforts helped expand hiking options and opened sections of park that were affected by the Las Conchas fire in 2011.
Ezra Pasackow is a 24-year-old AmeriCorps member with Vermont Youth Conservation Corps. He has been serving on a one-acre plot on a Vermont Land Trust property in Newport, VT. His crew is growing vegetables that will be distributed to families in need.
“Farming has always been a passion of mine and being able to serve my community at the same time has been a wonderful experience. This AmeriCorps position at Vermont Youth Conservation Corps allows me to serve among an amazing group of like-minded people while also participating in a cutting-edge program, the Health Care Share initiative, which provides organic vegetables to Vermonters with diet-related illnesses.”
Geoscientists-in-the-Parks (GIP) is a National Park Service program that partners with Conservation Legacy to place college students and recent graduates as interns at parks. Jennifer Cramer is an AmeriCorps member and GIP participant at Colonial National Historical Park in Virginia. Jennifer is particularly proud of the work she’s done to collect data to monitor groundwater responses to extreme weather. Jennifer is also involved in assessing the vulnerability of the 56 archaeological sites across Jamestown Island.