VIDEO: Corps Partner to Restore the Escalante River Watershed

Montana Conservation Corps helps build "Vigilante Bike Park"


Taken from the Helena Independent Record 
By Al Knauber, PHOTOS by Eliza Wiley, Independent Record

More than a year’s worth of planning became a reality in about five hours of work.

The Montana Conservation Corps, which has helped build trails across the state, wanted to do a project with greater visibility and enlisted the aid of Carroll College students in late September. The group assembled at Helena’s Centennial Park for the 20th anniversary of National Public Lands Day.

With shovels and sweat, they and other volunteers, numbering 112 in all, created Vigilante Bike Park, Helena’s bike park.

T&E The Cat Rental Store provided a “skid-steer,” a small piece of machinery that’s been compared to a mini-bulldozer, that Joe Robbins drove that day. Chris Charlton of Jefferson City brought one too and helped move dirt for the first track at the bike park, said Will Harmon, who has long wanted to see a bike park in Helena and participated in the effort to make it a reality.

Only a small portion of the 3.9 acres set aside for bicycling at Centennial Park was used to build this first track.

By the end of that day, a rider gave the track a test drive. It passed the test.

The track isn’t just for mountain bikes; it is designed for those who relish the chance to jump and flip and twist on smaller BMX bikes.

Amy Teegarden, Helena’s parks and recreation director, said she’s heard the track has been called “sick,” a designation that pleases her.

In the vernacular of those who ride, she explained, this is a compliment.

The first track is what’s called a “pump track” and relies on a rider’s initial momentum and the spacing between rises and dips in the track and berms instead of pedaling to keep a rider speeding along.

Riders push down on their handlebars and pedals as they descend from each rise on the track to accelerate and then rise up from that squat position as the bike crests the next hill. The result of this physical workout converts gravitational force into speed.

But that’s the scientific explanation for what riders say is fun.


“It’s like a mini-roller coaster for bikes,” Harmon said.

“It’s like the craziest mountain biking you’ve ever been through, but it’s condensed into a 300 foot loop,” he added.

Get him talking about the course and the excitement is evident in his voice. Harmon is an avid bicyclist himself, as are his two sons, and he has bicycles specially designed for the type of riding he will do. One of them is intended to be taken to the top of ski slopes in the summer and ridden to the bottom. He grins when he explains this. His trio of bicycles, he said, is worth more than his car.

This first pump track is one of three that will be built, say Harmon and Pat Doyle, the Helena Tourism Alliance’s community outreach director. One of the other two pump tracks will be less challenging and intended more for children who are just beginning to develop their bicycling skills. The third pump track will be more advanced and have more of those features that BMX riders want to see.

Having a bike park that is appealing to BMX riders is important.

Centennial Park was built atop a former city landfill. A few feet beneath the surface is a liner that keeps snowmelt and rain from leeching contaminants out of the buried garbage. As plans were made for how to convert the site into a recreational attraction, an area for BMX riders was proposed, Teegarden said.

However, in the five years that she’s been the parks director, that focus has shifted to mountain biking.

Despite that shift, providing for BMX riders has remained important because without a place to practice, these riders have been using the skate park as a place to ride.

The skate park, however, wasn’t built for multiple use, Teegarden said.

The bike park isn’t intended to be just a place to ride, said Doyle, but a place for people “to get more comfortable on mountain bikes before they go out on trails.”

A skills track is planned for the bike park that will also allow riders to traverse a portion of city history. Granite slabs salvaged as old buildings were demolished in the 1970s during the urban renewal movement will be incorporated into this design.

“We’ve incorporated it into various parks including the walking mall,” Teegarden said of the granite slabs.

Bike park features are being designed by the city with suggestions from those who ride mountain bikes, Harmon said. Industry standards for bike park features are being used in the design.

“One of the really unique things about this process is that it’s on city land,” Doyle said.

Other communities, he explained, have struggled to find locations for their bike parks. Doyle predicts communities will see the value of bike parks and embrace them in the coming years even if for now it has yet to blossom as an accepted urban recreation.

“It’s a very proactive thing for the city to do,” he added.

Some 2,000 cubic yards of dirt will be needed to make the entire park a reality, as will about $180,000.

The installation of the first pump track cost about $5,000. This is less than was anticipated because of the volunteer labor, Teegarden said.

The city contributed land for the bike park and some $20,000.

Doyle and Harmon say they see a return on the community investment in a bike park.

Having the first track in place at the bike park gives people more of an idea of what the facility will offer, Doyle said, and will help with fundraising.

He said he sees the bike park as a tourism attraction and said, “This bike park will be the first of its kind in the state.”

“People are always looking for other places to ride,” he continued. “Helena is already an incredible place to ride.”

“Right now, it’s a little bit of an underground tourism niche,” Harmon said of those who seek out bike parks.

But he, too, sees the potential.

“The people who do this stuff aren’t shy about spending money on their sport,” Harmon said. “And they travel.”

Centennial Park has become more than a showcase for urban recreation. The area set aside for dogs to run off-leash was made possible by donations as was the installation of a roughly 11-foot-tall climbing boulder. Making the bike park a reality will rely on the same sorts of community support.

Donations are being accepted by the Helena Recreation Foundation, which has a nonprofit tax status allowing for tax-deductible donations to be made to the bike park, Doyle said.

Harmon looks for the first two phases of construction to be completed in about a year from now. He and Doyle say they appreciate the city’s efforts to make the bike park a reality.

“We can’t thank Craig (Marr, Helena’s parks’ superintendent) and Amy enough. They’ve been tremendous,” Harmon said, adding, “The city is lucky to have them, not just as employees, but as people with vision and insight.”

Bette Midler, founder of NYRP, to receive Rockefeller Foundation Award

Taken from Philanthropy News Digest 

Rockefeller Foundation Announces Winners of 2013 Jane Jacobs Medal

The Rockefeller Foundation has announced the recipients of the 2013 Jane Jacobs Medal, which is awarded annually to individuals whose work creates new ways of seeing and understanding New York City.

Entertainer Bette Midler, who in 1995 founded the New York Restoration Project, which works to restore parks, save community gardens, and beautify neighborhoods throughout the city, will receive the 2013 Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Leadership. Ian Marvy, founding director ofAdded Value, whose urban community farm provides educational opportunities and fresh produce in the Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn, will receive the 2013 Jane Jacobs Medal for New Ideas and Activism.

Midler plans to donate the $100,000 award that comes with the honor to NYRP, while Marvy will donate his $100,000 prize to Added Value in honor of his late mother.

"The Rockefeller Foundation Jane Jacobs Medal recognizes New Yorkers who intervene in and use the urban environment to build a more equitable city for all of us," said Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin. "It is completely appropriate for us to honor Ms. Midler's work in light of her work to bring verdant recreational space to so many New Yorkers in so many different communities. It is also appropriate that we honor Mr. Marvy's work with community youth in bringing fresh produce to what had been a food desert."

Click here for the full press release from the Rockefeller Foundation

Urban Corps of San Diego Hired to Clean City Sidewalks

Story and picture taken from the Carlsbad Patch

Under a new contract with Urban Corps of San Diego County, city sidewalks and other surfaces will be cleaned more frequently while providing much needed job experience to young adults.

The city previously contracted with a private company to do this work.  Under that contract, the Village area and seawall were cleaned twice a year.  For the same cost, Urban Corps crews will perform work throughout the city three times a week, year round. 

“We’ve been employing Urban Corps for 10 years for other projects, and they deliver highly dependable, professional service for a reasonable price,” Dobbs said. “It also helps Urban Corps members develop job skills and gain experience.”

Urban Corps is a locally based nonprofit conservation corps that provides a high school education and job training to young adults between the ages of 18 and 25. Since 1989 Urban Corps has given more than 10,000 youths who did not succeed in traditional school settings a second chance to develop new skills and earn an education.

Beginning on Oct. 4, Urban Corps will provide a pressure-washing crew that will scrub sidewalks as directed by the City of Carlsbad Transportation Department street maintenance team.

“Urban Corps will be sending a team with a truck three days a week,” said Clayton Dobbs, a utilities supervisor for the City of Carlsbad. “We’ll focus their efforts downtown and on the seawall, because we get so much foot traffic there, but they’ll be working throughout Carlsbad, wherever we need them.”

The cleaning crews will wear uniforms so they’ll be clearly identified. They will start work in the downtown Carlsbad Village at 6 a.m. and be finished by 9:30 a.m., so they’ll be gone when most businesses open for the day.

Dobbs noted that it’s not just debris and gum that needs a pressure-wash. He said that some parts of the city, especially La Costa, experience algae buildup where groundwater rises to the surface and forms pools on streets and sidewalks.

Pressure-washing sidewalks isn’t the first task that Urban Corps has performed for the City of Carlsbad. The city employs the group to clean litter daily and remove large bulky items that are dumped on the sides of roads. Urban Corps also clears debris from storm water outlets so they flow smoothly, and cleans graffiti from city walls and surfaces.

The contract for the work is not to exceed $68,000 a year, and is renewable every year for five years.


Speak Up, Be Heard: Civicorps Hosts Leadership Summit

On September 24th and 25th, Civicorps in Oakland California hosted its first ever Leadership Summit.

Taken from a Civicorps email update

Civicorps' hosted a powerful two-day convening of Oakland youth, community activists, and elected officials to discuss community issues, brainstorm solutions, and inspire action.

Youth heard inspiring speeches from Senator Loni Hancock and Junious Williams at Urban Stratgies Council. They also listened to stories from community activists about transforming passion into action and then brainstormed solutions for local issues with Community Health, Safety, Youth Engagement, and Career & Education Opportunities.

The youth teams then presented their ideas to a panel of decision makers, which included:  

"I learned how to be a leader - how to find my voice." 
- Youth Activist

"I am excited to see young black men talking about community issues."   
- Supervisor Keith Carson   

Click here to read more about the event 

Photos of the Month: July 2013


Keep updating those Facebook photos! We'll collect some of our favorite photos posted on Corps Facebook pages within the past month and post them on this blog. Here are some of our favorites from July. 


Southwest Conservation Corps


Earth Conservation Corps


Mile High Youth Corps


Reaching the Summit Community Service Initiative


The Rooftop Garden at Urban Corps of San Diego


"Tools of the trade. Can anyone name them all?" - Maine Conservation Corps 


LA Conservation Corps


Photos of the Month: August 2013

Keep updating those Facebook photos! We'll collect some of our favorite photos posted on Corps Facebook pages within the past month and post them on this blog. Here are some of our favorites from August.


KUPU - Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps
Kupu Gateway Team Hilo A's version of the classic "American Gothic" Painting... conservation style!

Texas Conservation Corps
Texas Conservation Corps Emergency Response Team Blue's first demo/clean up project in Circle, Alaska. Disassembling a log cabin foundation which consists of a plywood layer, floor joists, insulation and another layer of plywood. The cabin was removed from its foundation and placed about 20' away during the Yukon River Flood in May 2013. Photos by Valerie Tamburri.

Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa - Going to the Minnesota State Fair? Visit us at the DNR Complex! Post your cut-out photo on our wall for a chance to win two free tickets to the Conservation Corps 80th birthday celebration.


Four Corners School of Outdoor EducationThis training was THE largest collaborative assembly of youth corps members in the history of the Universe!* Thanks to the Escalante River Watershed Partnership andSouthwest Conservation Corps for planning and hosting the training, and to the 80 corps members with Canyon Country Youth Corps, Utah Conservation Corps, andCREC Coconino Rural Environment Corps for all of their hard work. This upcoming season, they plan to accomplish 10 YEARS worth of habitat restoration in only 10 weeks.**
(*We cannot actually verify this, but seriously, it was huge. **This is actually true. Photo by Jacob W. Frank)

California Conservation Corps - posted by John Griffith on the Totem Magic: Going MAD Facebook page
Beth Pratt, the CA Director of The National Wildlife Federation came to visit the California Conservation Corps, Ukiah center to congratulate the corps members on certifying their residential campus as certified wildlife habitat!!!

Maine Conservation Corps

Mile High Youth Corps
First challenege: the banana toss

Conservation Corps North Bay - Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden


Student Conservation AssociationSCA's Hudson Valley Corps is waist deep in conservation. 

California Conservation Corps - from The Corps Network's Facebook page -  
Three Generations on California Fire

KUPU - Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps - KUPU service event


Photos of the Month: September 2013

Keep updating those Facebook photos! We'll collect some of our favorite photos posted on Corps Facebook pages within the past month and post them on this blog. Here are some of our favorites from September. 


This is the last field day for our Alaska Service Corps crews. All that remains are a few soggy souls and the memories of a challenging, yet rewarding summer. Thank you to all of our crews this year for your hard work and dedication to service.

Youth Conservation Corps


Montana Conservation Corps - 
Well fall has finally arrived in Montana. Crews still have a few more hitches of work before the season wraps up, but cooler weather is here to stay. Any suggestions for crews to keep warm?


Conservation Corps Minnesota & IowaErik Wrede of the DNR shows everyone how it is done. — at Minnesota State Fair Grounds.


YEP - Youth Employment in Parks


Vermont Youth Conservation CorpsA new technique in the east, this project involves installing “toe wood” at the bottom of the bank (burying large woody debris perpendicular to the river flow, root ends exposed), which is implemented by the contractor in an excavator. Above the toe wood, jute-fabric soil lifts are installed to stabilize erosive soils. The fabric is secured with native willow stakes. Voila: riverbank stabilization. Notably, this location was severely damaged by tropical storm Irene.


Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - ColoradoOur fall Veterans Fire Corps taking a break from some juniper and pinyon saw work. The crew is currently serving as part of a 20 person hand crew, the Yampa River crew, fighting the Burroughs Fire in Wyoming.


Conservation Corps Minnesota & IowaYesterday we got to make 71 dozen seed bombs at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota's CareFest volunteering event with over100 of their employees! The seed bombs will be planted in local parks by our crews.


Earth Conservation Corps


Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - Colorado
One of our fall crews on their morning commute in Dinosaur National Monument.


San Francisco Conservation Corps
Congratulations Ming, who will be graduating on October 17th, on successfully completing the SFCC Program. In his time at the Corp Ming has obtained a High School Diploma, a leadership position as a TRS-Driver, was accepted into the YearUp Program and won the “More Thrilling than Michael” Dance-Off Award at the 2013 Talent Show.


Corps Job Exchange - 1. It's a one-of-a-kind collaboration of organizations dedicated to sharing opportunities and resources for your next career goals.

2. It helps you find jobs that will be a good fit for your experience and interests.
3. It helps you find like-minded employers who care about service.
4. Find opportunities you might not hear about otherwise.
5. It makes careers in conservation more accessible.
6. It raises awareness of Corps in general.
7. It's about more than just jobs: you can find information on the AmeriCorps Education Award, career tips, and more.
8. It's accessible: you're already on Facebook.
9. It gives recruiters access to a diverse and highly qualified applicant pool.
10. It helps you find your next adventure!


Coconino Rural Environment Corps
CREC learns the ropes at Search and Rescue. (We hope the dummy pulls through!)


Heart of Oregon CorpsThank you Black Bear Diner for lunch!!




Ceremony Held to Name Naval Ship in Honor of Former Corpsmember Killed in Iraq


At the naval base in San Diego September 20, a naming ceremony was held for three new guided-missile destroyers, including the USS Rafael Peralta. 

Rafael was a San Diego corpsmember and crewleader in the California Conservation Corps from 1998-99. He later went on to serve in the Marines.

Rafael was killed in Iraq in 2004 while covering his body with a live hand grenade to save his fellow Marines.  He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, but a San Diego congressman continues to fight to have him awarded the Medal of Honor. 

Click here to read our original post about Peralta from when the Secretary of the Navy announced the naming in 2012. 



Diagram of Burke Class Destroyer - Ship model named after Rafael Peralta

VIDEO: Mile High Youth Corps Helps Reopen Public Land Destroyed by Fire

Click here to watch a video about how Corpsmembers from Mile High Youth Corps helped restore the Blodgett Peak Open Space in Colorado Springs following a devestating wildfire.