The Oak Creek Symposium in October was a hit. Ricky Duran, a CREC AmeriCorps Corpsmember, organized the two day event with the support of CREC, Oak Creek Watershed Council and U.S. Forest Service. Twenty CREC Corpsmembers joined with 85 members of the public at the event that was designed to bring young adults and students together to network with experts and professionals with a focus on watershed concerns and job opportunities. The event started with a field trip choice of an Eco-Hike at Grasshopper Point with Amina Sena, the U.S. Forest Service hydrologist, or a behind the scenes look at work at Slide Rock State Park with the Frank Van Devender, the park’s assistant manager. After lunch, CREC Corpsmembers worked the registration table as people signed up for the eleven speaker symposium. Speakers discussed water sustainability, pollution, wildlife and the importance of making a difference with youth in conservation. Ricky gave the final address and received a standing ovation. The second day of the event was an Eco-Fair. CREC and 15 other organizations tabled at the event and made valuable connections. CREC Corpsmembers have already contributed snake photographs for a Northern Arizona University citizen science initiative. The narrow headed garter snake is a sensitive species that is difficult to find, and CREC Corpsmembers were able to provide documentation about a sighting in a new area. Ricky is part of CREC’s four person Oak Creek Watershed Ambassadors crew. The crew started work on Oak Creek the week of July 4 to connect with and educate the public about watershed concerns and pick up trash. The crew has connected with thousands of Oak Creek visitors and packed out 3359 pounds of trash. One of the serious concerns the Ambassadors have addressed is human waste; it is a major pollutant and a contributing factor in the E. Coli in Oak Creek water samples. The Ambassadors got immunizations before starting work and have packed out 75 pounds of human fecal material. The Oak Creek Ambassadors will be finishing their service commitment soon, and the Oak Creek Symposium was a great way to wrap up their season.
CREC’s Youth Conservation Corps wrapped up the season with graduation on July 26th. We graduated 23 youth, eleven of which were graduates of the 2012 YCC season and had returned for their second season. Four crews worked across Arizona, in Flagstaff, Williams and the Verde Valley, led by mentor teams comprised of CREC young adult Corpsmembers. The two Flagstaff crews demolished and repaved the sidewalk at the visitor center at Walnut Canyon National Monument. This involved using double jacks and rock bars to tear up pavement and load it into dump trucks. The corpsmembers cooperated with National Park Service staff to use machinery to get the job done. The youth crews also assisted adult corpsmembers and NPS staff in shaping and hauling rock for the Island Trail. In addition to the hard and heavy labor, the crews also tackled invasive species infestations. The crews hand treated and used GPS units to survey dozens of acres of national forest and national monument land in eradication efforts of Mediterranean sage, bull thistle, and sensitive areas of concentrated cheat grass and knapweed. The crew working with the National Forest also did some biological control work; they released time sensitive weevils into the infested areas as part of a comprehensive management plan. The Williams crew worked with several different resource teams during the YCC term. While working with fire and heritage, the crew raked duff from logging railroads from the 1890s and 1910s to create a fire break and protect the extensive artifact from fire danger so that integrated management plans involving low intensity fire would not damage it. Also, with heritage and archaeology the crew scrubbed graffiti from petroglyphs at Keyhole Sink and removed downed logs from pre-historic structures in the Kendrick Mountain area. The crew also removed miles of barbed wire fence to open an antelope migration path. They rolled the wire and removed and hauled the fence posts and stays to a pick up location. The Verde Valley crew worked with Dead Horse Ranch State Park and the National Monuments in the Verde Valley. The crew cleared cattail from a lagoon at Dead Horse, cooperating with park staff in a boat with motorized cutting implements, then raking in the cattails, drying them and hauling them off site. At Montezuma Well, the crew worked with NPS staff and SCA interns to remove invasive species, collect native seed, prepare the ground, mix seed and sow it at a historic visitor site, also the site of a future environmental education center.
Those of us who enjoy summer afternoons along Oak Creek will soon meet a new group of advocates for clean water and healthy recreation practices. The Oak Creek Ambassador program kicked off July 1, introducing a community outreach effort focused on building awareness of the impact of recreation activities on the quality of water and health of Oak Creek. The program is jointly sponsored by the Oak Creek Watershed Council and the Red Rock Ranger District of the Coconino National Forest under a grant provided by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Clad in Oak Creek Watershed Council T-shirts, the "Ambassadors" will be visiting heavy use sites within the Oak Creek corridor throughout the warm months, greeting visitors, picking up litter and speaking about ways to reduce E. coli bacteria levels in the Creek. "The Ambassadors will be sharing the message 'Clean Water Starts with ME' and providing reminders of how our recreation behaviors can help to improve water quality in Oak Creek,” said Amina Sena, Red Rock Ranger District Hydrologist. “E. coli is an ongoing issue which can affect human health and it can be positively impacted by greater care with handling of trash, as well as pet and human waste." As the Oak Creek Watershed Council education literature emphasizes, each gram of dog waste contains an average of 23 million fecal coliform bacteria, some of which cause disease in humans. We can support a healthier Oak Creek by using public restrooms, packing out litter and used diapers and picking up pet and human waste. Fecal contamination of Oak Creek from wildlife is part of the issue, but this contamination can be further exacerbated by food litter and the presence of human waste in high use areas of the creek corridor. "These teams are boots-on-the-ground, providing a stewardship presence along the corridor, at campgrounds and recreation sites", said Barry Allan, Executive Director of the Oak Creek Watershed Council, co-sponsor of the program. Beyond the Ambassador program, the objectives of the Council and Forest Service efforts under the ADEQ grant include installation of public toilet facilities at Midgley Bridge and dog waste stations at key locations. The health of Oak Creek is a complex, multi-faceted issue. Wildlife, residential and commercial facilities, livestock, storm activity and erosion all play a role in watershed health in addition to recreational use. Working together on this grant to support the health of the creek, Friends of Oak Creek volunteers are involved in ongoing cleanup efforts and creating a watershed guide, while the Sedona Friends of the Forest are performing water quality sampling for E. coli monitoring. “Collaboration and partnerships between a watershed management group like the Oak Creek Watershed Council and the Forest Service with their support group Friends of the Forest, are a must in order to deal with the environmental impact of sustainable tourism” said Allan, “volunteers cannot do it by themselves, though, and visitors to Oak Creek must help by leaving it in the pristine condition they found it.” “Let's welcome the Oak Creek Ambassadors as they begin work along our treasured waterway this month” said Jennifer Young, Vice President of Friends of the Forest, “and we can embrace the message that "Clean Water Starts with ME" by applying our individual support to these key elements of watershed stewardship as we enjoy Oak Creek this summer: Use public restrooms; pick up trash; keep used diapers away from the creek; pick up pet waste; refrain from feeding wildlife; hike only on designated trails; and keep residential and commercial waste systems operating properly.” “I agree with Jennifer” said Allan, “there is no housekeeping service in the forest and only together can we make a difference and eliminate fecal coliform as a health issue in Oak Creek. Everybody needs to become an “Ambassador” and do their part.” To learn more about opportunities to support a clean and beautiful Oak Creek, visit http://www.oakcreekwatershed.org or call 928-554-5460. If you are interested in volunteering a few hours of your time please contact Kathy Dunham, Managing Director of Friends of Oak Creek at 928-274-6227 or firstname.lastname@example.org To learn more about the Friends of the Forest activities in the Red Rock District, visit www.friendsoftheforestsedona.org. The Oak Creek Watershed Council also sponsors a second website which focuses on Oak Creek Canyon at http://www.oakcreekcanyonaz.org The Oak Creek Watershed Council is a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) corporation and was named Nonprofit of 2012 by the Sedona Community Foundation. It is dedicated to maintaining a standard of excellence for watershed stewardship, as well as preserving the integrity of Oak Creek, and its tributaries. **Article and photo courtesy of The Oak Creek Watershed Council members Jennifer Young and Barry Allan.
A CREC crew was dispatched today to Oklahoma to assist with a disaster relief effort for two weeks. Our crew of five will team up with other AmeriCorps programs to support FEMA Volunteer and Donations recovery efforts in partnership with the State Emergency Management and Oklahoma VOAD. Members will support the Volunteer Reception Centers (VRCs) previously established by other AmeriCorps programs in the past few weeks. One of the primary goals of this assignment will be to transition the volunteer and work order systems to the local agencies. The crew will focus primarily on logistics in a warehouse and managing volunteers and donations, although they will be on call to many opportunities for their two weeks and will support where they are able. We wish this crew luck in the days ahead as they will be working long hours and adjusting as they go. Good luck and best wishes to Cassidy, Matt, Jake, Allison and Mitch!!
On April 9th, 832 mayors from big cities to small towns and everything in between participated in the Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service. Mayor Nabours, from the City of Flagstaff, read a proclamation at City Hall, recognizing the AmeriCorps programs in Flagstaff. CREC staff were in attendance for the presentation and later gathered to celebrate at a reception with other service programs in Flagstaff. The first-ever Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service was led by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS); Cities of Service; the National League of Cities; and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “It is a testament to the effectiveness of AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs that nearly one-third of Americans will have their mayor participating in this first-ever Day of Recognition,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of CNCS. “We're proud to stand with this bipartisan group of mayors. These leaders are shining a bright light on the impact of AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers as they improve neighborhoods and transform lives across the country.”
Join CREC in the celebration of all things AmeriCorps! March 9th - 17th is AmeriCorps Week. Stay tuned for a schedule of events.
Last week, a youth crew from the Nature Conservancy in Silver City, New Mexico passed through Flagstaff and visited with one of our NACC crews. The youth crew is studying ecological restoration and forest health and while they are well versed in the subject area, they’ve been limited on field experience. Shadowing CREC gave them an opportunity to see the field work firsthand. The crew spent the afternoon with Mitch Lazarz’s crew, who happened to be chainsawing in the San Francisco Peaks last week. Each CREC Corpsmember had 1 or 2 youth crew members shadow them as they explained the process of evaluating and felling a tree. Needless to say it was a great opportunity for both crews to learn and grow from each other. Thanks to The Nature Conservancy for the meet up.
Alex Hreha was recognized as one of six Corpsmembers of the Year, this February, in Washington D.C. as part of The Corps Network’s National Conference. Alex traveled to Washington with CREC staff members, Miquelle Scheier and Allison Laramee for the four day conference. The Conference kept them busy, attending roundtables, meeting local politicians, delivering speeches and enjoying the atmosphere with other corps programs. Miquelle Scheier introduced and presented CREC Founder, John Irish, with The Corps Network Legacy Award. John was instrumental in the early years of CREC and has continued to impact the conservation world. He currently sits on the board for the Southwest Conservation Corps. Miquelle, Allison and Alex met with many Arizona Representatives on Capitol Hill, including Rep. Rual Grijalva from Tucson, AZ. It was a great opportunity to discuss shared goals for conservation in the southwest. Alex and Allison also toured The White House and while neither had an Obama spotting they thoroughly enjoyed the tour.
A member of the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC) has been honored by the nationwide Corps Network. CREC is a local Flagstaff conservation corps administered by the Coconino County Community Services Department. Alex Hreha was selected as one of the six Corpsmembers nationwide to receive this honor. He represents more than 30,000 Corpsmembers across the nation.
The Corps Network, which is the voice of the nation’s 150+ Service and Conservation Corps, will honor Hreha and the other five awardees at the Annual Corps Forum in Washington D.C. in February. The awards ceremony will be held Feb.13 on Capitol Hill with members of the Arizona congressional delegation in attendance.
Hreha, an Arizona native from Sedona, first started working with CREC through its local Youth Conservation Corps program in 2010, and leveraged this experience into subsequent successful AmeriCorps terms with the CREC Northern Arizona Conservation Corps program in 2011 and 2012. Hreha is currently employed as an Assistant Crew Leader with CREC’s Verde Watershed Restoration Crew based out of Cottonwood, Arizona.
Since its inception in 1997, CREC has been honored with Corpsmember of the Year awards in 2006, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013. CREC also received Project of the Year awards from The Corps Network in 2006, 2008, and 2011 and The Corps Network Excellence in Corps Operations accreditation in 2006 and 2009.
CREC also nominated its founder John Irish for the Legacy Achievement Award and Irish is slated to receive this honor in Washington D.C. on Feb. 13. This award will recognize leaders with approximately 20 or more years of contribution to the Corps movement. Irish currently resides in Colorado and is an Executive Board Member with the Southwest Conservation Corps.
Based on the Corps model used successfully throughout the US for more than 75 years to address critical environmental and infrastructure needs, CREC has been providing youth and young adult workforce development opportunities and natural and cultural resource conservation services in collaboration with a wide variety of community partners for 15 years.
Established in 1985, The Corps Network's 150 + members currently operate in all states and the District of Columbia. Corps collectively enroll over 30,000 Corpsmembers from ages 16-25 while mobilizing approximately 289,000 community volunteers who, in conjunction with Corpsmembers, generate 13.5 million hours of service every year.
For more information, visit www.crecweb.org.
Fall is a busy season here at CREC and we added four crews to our current crews for a total of eight. The first week of October we met 28 new faces and sent them through a few weeks of training. Now they are hard at work all over Arizona, building trails, restoring habitats and removing invasive plants.
One of our new crews in particular is working long days on the Verde River in conjunction with the Verde Watershed Restoration Coalition. The crew of eight will spend 11 weeks devoted to removing invasive plants like Tamarisk, Russian Olive and Tree of Heaven, all in an effort to restore the Verde watershed.