Each year, thousands of volunteers across the country participate in the largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands in America, National Public Lands Day (NPLD). Locally, students and staff of the Oconaluftee Job Corps CCC contributed over 250 hours of service on the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests as a part of 2012 NPLD. Entrusted with over 1.2 million acres, the National Forests of North Carolina have many special places that thrive on volunteer service for sustained recreation, education, and preservation.
Working side by side with staff from the Cheoah Ranger District, students worked on building five access points to Santeetlah Creek for anglers at the Rattler Ford Group Campground. Additionally, the Cheoah hosts a kids fishing day event at the site each year. “These new steps dramatically improve access for campground users and visitors. Thousands of visitors a year will benefit from this effort” said District Forestry Technician, Jeremy Waite. Forestry Conservation students returned for a second day to put in retaining walls and construct pads for new ADA accessible picnic spots at the popular Massey Branch area along US 143.
Student Robert Timms appreciates the opportunity to protect and improve public lands. “I’m learning new techniques I’ll use on a job someday, but I’m also building something that will be here for generations… it feels great,” he said.
In another NPLD volunteer project, Facilities Maintenance students worked with the national Cradle of Forestry in America in the Pisgah National Forest to enhance public facilities there. For over 100 years, visitors have been coming to the Cradle to learn about conservation and forest resources but the work is always on-going. To support these efforts, the students volunteered on a conservation project to increase weed suppression for converting turf grass into wildflower meadows as well as general landscaping maintenance.
Devin Gentry, Education and Outreach Specialist for the Cradle of Forestry In America Interpretive Association, was thankful for the volunteer support. “The crew was great and we got a lot accomplished. I’d love to have them back in the future,” he said.
More information about the Oconaluftee JCCCC is available at oconaluftee.jobcorps.gov or jobcorpsnews.org/Oconaluftee The Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center is associated with the National Forests of North Carolina. It is accredited by the Council On Occupational Education and currently serves 104 students. The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Agency manages over 200 million acres of public land, provides assistance to State and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.