Texas Conservation Corps and Texas A&M – Partners in Pines

It’s 10 AM on a weekend and hundreds of Texas A&M University students are gathered together under a group of  blackened pine trees in a winter woodland silenced a year ago by wildfire.  And they were about to add a bit of spring to this important forest. Over two weekends (February 16 & 17 and 23 & 24)  8,800 drought resistant loblolly pine saplings were planted in the rocky, difficult soils of Bastrop State Park. The six hundred Aggie volunteers were lead by Texas A&M Forest Service, Bastrop State Park Staff, and yours truly – the Texas Conservation Corps.

After a damaging fire in Bastrop in 2011, the park needs help with becoming green again. Some areas in the park were so hot during the fire that saplings are not appearing on their own – and that’s where this group comes in.  On this weekend, an organized team came through with a mission: rebuild this forest.  The overall goal for the next five years is to plant 1,000,000 saplings in this once and future forest.  Nothing is impossible, especially when people come together through weekends like this.

Looking forward twenty years from now, a fine looking forest is on the horizon at Bastrop State Park- all thanks to the men and women that tirelessly put time into this space.  And that deserves an Aggie Whoop!

Joel D’Angelo, Field Crew Member

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The Environmental Corps Ethic

As a relative rookie to the practice of cutting down a tree, it would be easy to mistake the superficial simplicity of the actual process for dishonor or disrespect. It takes no more than a second for that tree to meet the ground, yet, for me, I cannot fathom a more ineffably reverential moment in time. I joke often about getting to play lumberjack to people who want a more concrete explanation of what I do and it comes as no surprise, in a culture that is somewhat beginning to capitulate to the whims of an environment that tires of our wasteful fickleness, that I am met with disapproval for eliminating from the landscape a general embodiment of good and majesty that is a tree. Yet, from the moment I began to listen to the voices at AYW who continue to teach me the particulars about all the facets of my job, notably the tree felling, I have never met a group of people who venerate the outdoors and instill that attitude in their proteges as effectively. The acute focus and scholarly attention to detail involved in our job at Bastrop State Park is an extension of the devotion of the staff. Being the aforementioned newcomer to this arena, it is rewarding to see that a job with rough-edged connotations can inconspicuously be as technical and comprehensive as it is. At a certain point, all the little things we do to pass the time, be they as grandiose as cutting down a loblolly pine or seemingly insignificant as digging into clay-ridden soil, organically coalesce into a sense of pride, enjoyment, and esteem in my work that has been unmatched by anything else I have ever done and may ever do. Sometimes it seems so simple to others, no more and no less than manual labor, but the uninitiated have yet to stand in my shoes and see how the cumulative effects of our work are an amalgamation of a lot of passion for the environment that we live in and share with others. It combines to create an everlasting, concrete appreciation for every gear in the machinations of the natural world; both for me and hopefully for the incognizant hiker who rightfully pays little mind to a bridge built, by our crew, with wood from a tree that possibly fell at my hands. That need to perpetuate admiration for our parks and, by extension, nature itself, namely by providing an outlet for such excursions, has been fostered in me since the day I joined up and will be something I hope to impart on others indefinitely.

John Hernandez, Bastrop State Park Restoration Crew Member

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From the Bastrop

2 weeks ago, Bastrop State Park and the Restoration Crew living out there saw a tremendous amount of rain. 5 inches! Because of the lack of ground cover as a result of the fire, there was a lot of damage in the park. The crew spent the next week clearing out CCC culverts to prevent further flood damage to the park infrastructure. When another 1inch of rain fell, the freshly cleared culverts worked! Click here to read their stories about the storm.

A rare rainy day.
Removing the last of the debris from waterways in Bastrop State Park.
Cleared culvert.


Tricklin' Through the Seasons

As the winter air settles in and the new year begins, my mind is focused on another season at American YouthWorks. Having worked with E-Corps for 2 seasons, I am just as excited for the upcoming one as I was for the first. One of the greatest joys that come with the work is the sense of belonging. I know that the people that I am about to meet will become family which is a beautiful thing. While we all grow on an individual basis, we all grow as a family too. A family that learns how to work hard, enjoy life and truly understand the meaning of a hard days work. Before we know it, the winter air will have retreated and the members of e-corps will be flourishing as the spring air descends.

Patrick Helton

Patrick will be a member on the Bastrop State Park Restoration Crew.

Patrick felling a hazard tree in Bastrop State Park after the wildfire.

Tricklin’ Through the Seasons

As the winter air settles in and the new year begins, my mind is focused on another season at American YouthWorks. Having worked with E-Corps for 2 seasons, I am just as excited for the upcoming one as I was for the first. One of the greatest joys that come with the work is the sense of belonging. I know that the people that I am about to meet will become family which is a beautiful thing. While we all grow on an individual basis, we all grow as a family too. A family that learns how to work hard, enjoy life and truly understand the meaning of a hard days work. Before we know it, the winter air will have retreated and the members of e-corps will be flourishing as the spring air descends.

Patrick Helton

Patrick will be a member on the Bastrop State Park Restoration Crew.

Patrick felling a hazard tree in Bastrop State Park after the wildfire.