Category Archives: Trail Maintenance

21CSC – Partners in Improving Public Lands & Waters: Idaho Conservation Corps Helps Enhance Mountain Bike Access in Sawtooth National Forest

Photo credit: Chris Leman

The Sawtooth National Forest covers over 2 million acres, predominately across south central Idaho. With a variety of habitats, 10 mountain ranges, and more than 1,000 lakes, the forest is a popular recreation destination.

Outdoor recreation is the main economic driver in many communities in and around the forest. To keep tourists coming, it is essential to maintain the region’s trails, camp sites, and other recreation-related infrastructure. This past summer, youth serving with Idaho Conservation Corps (ICC) – a program of Northwest Youth Corps – performed much-needed maintenance on the Oregon Gulch Trail, a popular route in Ketchum, ID for biking, hiking, horseback riding and motorsports.

The Corps participants, who ranged in age from 16 – 18, were part of ICC’s Youth Corps camping program. This program gives teenagers the opportunity to gain hands-on work experience by spending five weeks travelling throughout Idaho to perform important maintenance and improvement projects on public lands. Work on the Oregon Gulch Trail was completed by two ICC crews during July and August 2017.

Photo credit: Chris Leman

With drainage issues and sections of heavy rutting, the trail was in need of attention. To better understand the needs of trail users, Corps participants had the chance to experience the Oregon Gulch Trail on mountain bikes. Then, working alongside the professional Ketchum Trail Crew, based out of Sawtooth National Forest, the ICC members learned the processes involved in laying out a new trail and designing features to increase trail complexity for riders.

Using ten-pound pick-mattocks, the two ICC crews completed over 2,000 hours of service on the trail. They improved 50 drainage structures, restored one mile of existing trail, and constructed roughly a mile of new trail to route around a section that was rutted beyond repair.

With guidance from the professional trail crew, the Corps participants learned and practiced skills to build a quality trail. They also learned many intangible lessons.

“This crew started the season working as individuals, separated by interests, backgrounds and skill levels. Through this project, they learned to work as a cohesive team, sharing in the difficult aspects of digging a trail through rock, and keeping each other hydrated in the heat of an Idaho summer,” said Ari Songer, ICC Program Coordinator, “They will take with them a strong work ethic, resiliency when faced with challenge and an appreciation for the power of teamwork.”

Photo credit: Chris Leman

A reflection from an ICC member:

This experience meant an opportunity to discover one’s true self without the boundaries placed upon us by society.

This experience has been a gateway to self-discovery in its purest form.

For many of us, life is a cardboard box; a box of social groups, cultural norms, identity boundaries, and restriction of expression. Every now and again, the wind blows and the box tumbles head-over-heels, allowing us a brief glimpse of our true nature and the nature of the world around us. 

But, almost always, the box lands open side down. 

This program reminds us that we are strong enough to “break through the cardboard.” This adventure gives us the opportunity to separate ourselves from the cycles that dis-empower us. The only thing preventing you from being your true self is the illusion of disempowerment perpetuated by these cycles.

Take a second to reflect on your experience, and, if you realize nothing else, realize that none of this is possible alone.


Thank you to Ariana Songer of Idaho Conservation Corps for providing information for this story.

21CSC – Partners in Improving Public Lands and Waters: Montana Conservation Corps Enhances Access to Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring

National parks an important part of local economies, particularly in rural areas. Last year, a record 331 million visitors spent over $18 billion at national parks and their surrounding communities. Yellowstone, one of the top ten national parks by visitor spending, attracted more than 4.2 million visitors and generated $524.3 million.

Described as the world’s first national park, Yellowstone has many attractions for thrill-seekers and explorer’s alike. Visitors can go camping, view wildlife, enjoy horseback riding, and take the Yellowstone Pledge: To be a steward and help protect myself and the park. What most people come for, however, are the hot springs.

Spread across Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone offers 3,500 square miles of wilderness recreation area, sitting atop a volcanic hot spring. Geothermal attractions include Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring.

To address surging visitation, and growing concerns for visitor safety and resource preservation, the park’s Yellowstone Conservation Corps partnered with Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) – a 21CSC Member Organization – to create a trail to an overlook above the Grand Prismatic Spring, one of Yellowstone’s most visited thermal treasures.

The 0.6-mile-long boardwalk trail was constructed over a 10-week timeframe: July 9 – September 16. The main goals of this project were to enhance the visitor experience and protect the site. In the past, visitors frequented off-limit areas, creating “social trails.” Foot traffic from these informal trails caused erosion, putting visitors and the ecosystem in danger. The new trail offers Park visitors a sensational, safe view of the spring, while also protecting the thermal treasure and surrounding ecosystem.

In a comment to the media, Yellowstone National Park’s superintendent, Dan Wenk, applauded construction of the trail and overlook, stating new construction will “provide a different view of Grand Prismatic Spring and minimize the growth of unsightly, unofficial social trails in the process.”

Because the project took place in one of the most visited national parks, the crews frequently interacted with the public. This enabled the crews to see firsthand the relationship between the park and visitors. Crews learned how to convey the importance of ensuring fragile ecosystems remain undisturbed: “look, but don’t touch” is an essential practice for the safety of the environment and public.

“When doing conservation work on our public lands, especially in a national park, understanding how to navigate the relationship with the public is critical,” said Kelly Moorman, Communications Manager at MCC. “The crew also developed their trail construction and habitat restoration skills.”

In addition to constructing the boardwalk trail, the MCC crews also installed erosion control structures, rehabilitated old social trails, and partook in slash-piling and bridge construction. Throughout the course of the summer, the project engaged 18 MCC AmeriCorps members, ranging in age from 18 – 27.

“On this project, my crew and I gained a lot of pride for the work we do. We enjoy the trail work, but this project gave us a lot of perspective on why our job is so important,” said David Chaman, Field Crew Leader. “The hot days, dirt stained clothes, and the blood and sweat we put into making the Grand Prismatic overlook trail won’t be seen by the public. But the result of those things will. We had the privilege of making a trail that we know will be paved with millions of footsteps every year. Plus, when dealing with the aforementioned repercussions of our work, all we had to do was turn around and take in that incredible view of the Grand Prismatic to realize that it is all worth it.”

— Did you know?

What sets Yellowstone apart from other parks is its rich history. Established in 1872, Yellowstone has seen over 11,000 years of human presence, including the activity of several historic tribes, the arrival of European Americans, and formal expeditions. This history drove the National Park Service’s mission to preserve natural and cultural resources.

Thank you to Kelly Moorman, Communications Manager at Montana Conservation Corps, for providing information for this story.

21CSC – Partners in Improving Public Lands & Waters: Anchorage Park Foundation at Anchorage’s Kincaid Park


Kincaid Park in Anchorage, AK is an easily-accessible wilderness retreat for city-dwellers. Located just south of the airport, the 1,400+ acre site offers spectacular views, designated areas for motocross and archery, and scenic year-round multi-use trails that wind through forested hills and along the coast.

In June 2017, a Youth Employment in Parks (YEP) crew with the Anchorage Park Foundation – a member organization of the 21CSC – and Anchorage Parks and Recreation worked to help stabilize and reroute a popular bluff trail from Kincaid Park to the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge.

“The trail is used by many people accessing the refuge for outdoor and wildlife-related activities and was subject to erosion. The trail erosion threatened to destabilize the bluff. The trail descended steeply and caused debris slides into the wetlands below,” said Joe Meehan, Land and Refuges Program Coordinator for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “This project made access to the refuge easier for park and refuge users, and it assured protection of the wetlands.”

From June 12 – 15, a crew of 24 YEP members helped restore the trail using a practice known as “sidehilling” or “bench cutting.” The crew cut into the sandy hillside, creating a relatively flat surface for the trail.


Additionally, to prevent any further erosion, the crew installed 65 posts connected by 700 feet of rope railing. This new fence closes off an old “social trail” and encourages visitors to stay on the more sustainable sanctioned trail. The crew also installed over 300 plants, revegetating the slopes along the trail. The roots from these plants will help keep sand and soil from falling into the wetland.

“[This park] provides important wildlife habitat which is important to the community…this area is used for a variety of wildlife and outdoor activities, including wildlife viewing, waterfowl hunting, photography, nature study, and general outdoor activities, such as hiking and winter skiing,” said Meehan. “[Partnerships like this] help protect the wildlife and habitat resources we manage by directly conducting these types of projects, and also by developing community stewardship…[This partnership] puts local youth to work in the parks and refuge to develop their skills, and to promote their community stewardship ethic to help manage and protect park and refuge lands.”

Brad Fidel, Field Educator for Anchorage Parks and Recreation, stated that the YEP crew members walked away from this project not only with skills to prevent erosion, but knowledge about why controlling erosion is important.

“They learned trail building techniques and teamwork,” said Fidel. “They also learned about the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge and the importance of wildlife habitat.”

“I really love that I’m outside and I really like that I’m making the community a better place,” said Henry Joling, an 18-year-old crewmember. “We’re making Alaska even more beautiful than it already is.”

News reports on this project:

Wayne National Forest Engaging the Next Generation with the Help of Groundwork Cincinnati-Mill Creek

Last week, Groundwork Cincinnati-Mill Creek youth worked alongside Bill Scripp, a Recreation Technician from the Athens Ranger District on the Wayne National Forest in southeast Ohio. In this picture, youth are learning how to build a footbridge at Utah Pond near Nelsonville, Ohio.

This story and photos provided by the U.S. Forest Service.

In support of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC), the Wayne National Forest and Groundwork Cincinnati-Mill Creek, a nonprofit organization is one of several organization across the nation selected as an important partner in standing up the 21CSC, a collaborative effort to put America’s youth and veterans to work protecting, restoring and enhancing America’s great outdoors.

The partnership includes multiple opportunities over the next several months for Wayne National Forest employees to connect with young people on the Forest and at Groundwork Cincinnati-Mill Creek. Several young people are accomplishing meaningful work, and gaining important personal and professional skills, while building a lifelong connection to the outdoors.


Veterans Turn Firefighters in California Program, Part of 21st Century Conservation Service Corps

The California Conservation Corps enrolls veterans to assist with firefighting efforts as an official program of 21st Century Conservation Service Corps.

At a California Conservation Corps center in the Sierra foothills, 50 military veterans were put through their paces this week, mastering a 40-hour wildland fire training led by members of the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

After completing the course, the veterans became part of the nationwide Veterans Green Corps, that also includes veterans in the Student Conservation Association and the Southwest Conservation Corps. Many Corps programs have also developed Veterans Conservation Corps programs with other partners including Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (Colorado), Montana Conservation Corps, Maine Conservation Corps, Nevada Conservation Corps, Washington Conservation Corps, Utah Conservation Corps and Western Colorado Conservation Corps. These programs are all part of the new 21st Century Conservation Service Corps.

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