Youth Conservation Corps in East Texas

This is the second year that Texas Conservation Corps has partnered with the US Forest Service to provide leadership to their Youth Conservation Corps program in East Texas. Participants aged 15-17 were recruited from Kennard, a small town near the Davy Crockett Forest, and worked in the forest gaining valuable job skills. A Texas Conservation Corps member serving with one of our Emergency Response Teams moved to East Texas for 2 months to lead the youth members. TxCC also had a 4 hitch project in the same ranger district, improving 27 miles of the 4C hiking trail, which allowed one of our crews to work alongside the YCC for most of the summer. The program ended 8 August and the following posts are reflections from their term.

 

 

These past couple of weeks have been adventurous for me and as well as the others! We built bridges, cut down trees, and cleaned up trails. I had never even used a power tool before. My favorite experience was working on the ruins of the old mill. I admit I was not a big fan at first because of the bugs and ticks I encountered, but the final product was so beautiful that I forgot about all the bugs. I enjoyed working with the other Texas Conservation Corps crew; they made it seem like there was not a gender difference in the work place! Being the only girl made me wanna strive for better. I really enjoyed being with the YCC program. I was able to work on my teamwork skills and my “attitude” -haha!  I’m really glad I joined the program.

Colby Adair

 

 

Over the summer we have built 3 bridges. We repaired the planks on a bridge on the Tall Pines trail. We also added on to another bridge on the Tall Pines trail. Then the project that I was over was the foot bridge right before the bridge that we repaired. It was a 12 foot long bridge, and it was 2 feet off of the ground. On that bridge we used 4 2×10’s. The other bridges we fixes we used 2×6’s. We had tons of fun building all of the bridges.

Damien Stowe

 

 

All last week we were bringing history back to life! Our duties were to work at the ruins of the old sawmill at Ractliff Lake. We brushed, moved dead trees, cut, and piled loose debris. It was one of the hardest weeks of work we have had all summer in this program. All of Ractliff lake holds history and stories from way before most of our lifetimes. It’s our job to preserve that and take care of it so we can pass it on to future generations.

O’Keefe Peterson

 

 

What we did during the past week or so was making an old run-down campsite into a state-of-the-art GROUP CAMPSITE!!!  We made a whole new tent pad too! I hated it though. Why? I had to friggen make it “perfectly even” – oh yea its was made out of dirt. So I’m sure you can imagine how difficult it was to rake a pile of dirt to make it even in a square form! And then we scraped some old paint off of picnic tables and repainted them. Then we put in some signs and lantern posts (painted thoses too).

Ethan Champagne

 

 

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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