|From left, Jonnathan Lemus and Chris Cruz use a crosscut saw to clear a log blocking a trail in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness as Julio Gramajo watches. Photo courtesy of the Mendocino National Forest.|
COVELO, Calif. – On a warm afternoon at the Eel River Campground outside of Covelo, members of the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) were busy sprucing up the campground – fixing the signs, picking up trash, cutting weeds and cleaning the bathrooms.
The crew’s work is part of a partnership between the Mendocino National Forest and AmeriCorps. Crewmembers gain experience working in the forest, and the forest receives valuable support in maintaining recreational facilities and restoring ecosystems.
The 10-person crew is part of AmeriCorps, a national organization that mobilizes volunteers for community service projects, including environmental stewardship.
On Monday, June 11, the crew started a four-week assignment on the Mendocino National Forest, supporting the Covelo and Upper Lake Ranger Districts.
In addition to the NCCC crew, the Conservation Corps North Bay (CCNB) six-person crew, also a part of AmeriCorps, worked on the forest for the past eight days, finishing their assignment Wednesday, June 20.
This is the third consecutive year the forest has utilized AmeriCorps crews to complete trail, campground maintenance and ecological restoration work.
“They’re awesome,” said Covelo and Upper Lake Ranger District Implementation Officer Michelle Zuro-Kreimer. “They’re great to work with, very flexible, professional, well trained and a pure joy to work with each year.”
AmeriCorps participants are given the opportunity to make a difference to individuals, communities and the environment.
“It allows you to have an experience that changes your perspective and that is a good opportunity for everyone,” said Kameke Brown, a member of the NCCC crew.
This is the second year on the NCCC crew for Avery Bailie. He shared that the program has given him a wide variety of work, people and life experiences that he wouldn’t have been exposed to without NCCC.
When participants sign up for the crews, they sign up for a 10-month service year, October through July. Crew members receive a living stipend as well as an education award for their service work.
|From left, Kameke Brown, Katelyn Ogburn, Avery Bailie and Cody Barbour (seated) assemble sprayers while working at the Eel River Campground on the Covelo Ranger District. Photo courtesy of the Mendocino National Forest.|
Travis Smith, crew leader for the NCCC, said he would recommend the experience to his family and friends.
“It’s a great way to travel and it’s a fulfilling service experience,” Smith said.
The NCCC crew will spend five days of their time on the forest working on trails in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness.
The Backcountry Horsemen of California Lake and Mendocino Unit will assist the crew by packing in supplies.
Even though the CCNB only had eight days on the Forest, they provided additional help with trail and restoration activities working with the NCCC.
In addition to service to communities and environmental stewardship, CCNB includes a required education component. The crew has to complete 11 hours of education per week, three of which are based on environmental issues and field exercises.
Jonnathan Lemus likes how the classroom education relates so closely with the work they get to do in the field.
“You can really see how important these issues are when you can get out and do the work,” Lemus said.
Darrylome Shuemake Jr. from the CCNB said the program has taught him to work hard, be punctual and has given him a better understanding and appreciation for the environment.
“We really appreciate all the work these crews put in while they are here,” Zuro-Kreimer said. “The AmeriCorps crews are an amazing resource to help us with recreation work we normally wouldn’t have the staff to do, ultimately benefiting Forest visitors.”
|Jonnathan Lemus (right) shows Julio Gramajo a waterbar, a feature of trail construction that diverts water to protect the trail and streams in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness. Photo courtesy of the Mendocino National Forest.|
|National Civilian Community Corps Crew Leader Travis Smith cuts weeds at the Eel River Campground on the Covelo Ranger District. Photo courtesy of the Mendocino National Forest.|