2018 Project of the Year: LA Conservation Corps - Wiseburn Walking Path

At The Corps Network’s annual National Conference in Washington, DC, we celebrate the important service Corps provide to communities and young people across the country by honoring Corps who have taken on especially noteworthy endeavors within the past year. Projects of the Year are innovative and show a Corps’ ability to work with partner organizations to give Corpsmembers a positive experience and provide the community with meaningful improvements. Learn more


The Wiseburn Walking Path was designed to confront larger societal concerns around the lack of public outdoor exercise and fitness options within Los Angeles County. The 0.7-mile-long decomposed granite walking path is ADA-Accessible and seeks to improve community health for users of all ages. LA Conservation Corps (LACC) Corpsmembers were the backbone that transformed 3,200 linear feet of essentially unused slope from a regular illegal dumping ground into a valuable community resource.

This project was different than most other LACC) endeavors because the Corps was the general contractor, responsible for every aspect of the project. On most LACC construction projects, the Corps is subcontracted to perform specific activities, such as pouring concrete for sidewalks and curbs, planting trees, installing landscaping, and installing park amenities, such as play equipment and signage. This project, however, involved LACC being responsible for all these activities.

Performing the role as a general contractor involved complex permitting and approval processes. Parts of the project crossed into the City of Hawthorne, requiring meetings with Los Angeles County and City of Hawthorne officials. Additionally, the project abutted the right-of-way of the 405-freeway, which required compliance with California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) design standards. 

The Corps found ways to work with new partners and leverage existing partnerships to find ways to improve project efficiency. The project was a creative collaboration between LACC, the Los Angeles County Regional Park and Open Space District, County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation, the California Natural Resources Agency, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ Office, the California Department of Transportation, the Wiseburn Watch Community Group, and other constituent groups. Together, this multi-agency and community inclusive partnership worked to ensure that community needs and wants were heard, evaluated, prioritized, and incorporated as much as possible.

The gently meandering path is lined with eight pieces of outdoor exercise equipment. It also features five large seating areas, some with custom-designed hopscotch elements, that provide opportunities for play, rest, and community convening. Additionally, the project included the installation of 45 solar-powered pedestrian light poles and 55 security bollards. More than 150 new trees and 2,000 native plants were installed to provide a tranquil backdrop for users. Each amenity and component was carefully selected to provide physical, mental, and community health benefits.

Constructing the Wiseburn Walking Path Project provided significant job training and employment benefits to LACC Corpsmembers, as well as long-lasting benefits to Wiseburn community members. During the roughly 2.5 years of the project, over 80 Corpsmembers performed more than 13,000 service hours. For the core group of Corpsmembers, the skills learned involved using construction equipment, such as bobcats and skip loaders, performing grading and surveying, pouring and finishing concrete, and installing amenities and other infrastructure.  Their on-the-job training offered access to networking opportunities and introduced them to potential career choices. In addition to job training, LACC provided Corpsmembers who lacked a high school diploma the ability to attend classes through a charter school partner.

The project, while complex, is replicable. Similar projects might consider some of these lessons learned: 1) Focus on communication, internally and externally. 2) Set realistic expectations early; over the last two years, LACC regularly attended Wiseburn Watch meetings to not only provide updates, but to ensure that expectations were shared and being met. 3) Don’t assume a project is too big for your Corps. While it is of the utmost importance to work on projects you know you can perform successfully, it is also important to make sure you don’t assume a project is too complex. 4) There is always an opportunity for Corpsmembers to learn. In circumstances when LACC subcontracted other contractors, the Corps often assisted, or at least reviewed the work with Corpsmembers to help expand their knowledge.

Completing the Wiseburn Walking Path has strengthened LACC in many ways. The project increased their capacity to perform large-sale park construction projects; broadened their perspective on which projects they should and shouldn’t take on; and taught them the importance of planning to improve efficiency and effectiveness. The project has helped expand the knowledge, skills, and abilities of Corps staff and Corpsmembers, and has helped refine their approaches to training and mentoring. Finally, the successful completion of the Wiseburn Walking Path Project strengthened LACC’s relationships with a wide array of project partners. LACC is currently working on two projects that are similar to the Wiseburn Walking Path Project and are applying the aforementioned lessons learned.

A Corpsmember's Roman Holiday

This story originally appeared in LA Conservation Corps' E-Newsletter

Brian Langston, one of our outstanding corpsmembers who currently works in our Administrative Offices as an IT assistant, recently had the trip of a lifetime. He traveled to Rome, Italy in March for two weeks to run the Rome Marathon and to take in the sights of this historic city.

How did this come about, you ask? Well, it happened by chance, really. While attending Los Angeles Trade Technical College, a surprise speaker by the name of Judge Craig Mitchell came to Brian's class to talk about his difficult beginnings. He chronicled how he overcame the challenges of homelessness and illiteracy to become a school teacher, and then Los Angeles County Superior Court judge. Having a similar background, Brian was inspired by Judge Mitchell's story, and stepped outside of his comfort zone to speak up and ask the judge if they could keep in contact. To this request, Judge Mitchell invited Brian to join the Midnight Mission Running Club that he leads each week.

The rest, as they say, is history. Just by reaching out to a potential mentor for guidance, Brian went from running casually with the group on Skid Row, to running in the 2014 LA Marathon, to running in this year's Rome Marathon. Brian says that he's inspired by all of the generous supporters of his journey, and continues on because he wants to show his supporters that investing in him was worthwhile.

As for his time in Rome, Brian says "it was a dream" and that taking this trip made him realize the importance of coming back to Los Angeles to "do better in life." He also remarked that taking this trip across the pond showed him that world is much bigger than he originally thought. It opened his mind to more things that he wants to do.

Brian hopes to inspire other young people to get involved with the running group, and to help them take advantage of the same life-changing opportunities that made such a wonderful difference in his life.

We look forward to great things from Brian in the future!

To learn more about Judge Mitchell and his running club, check out these links:

Skid Row Marathon
NPR Story: From Skid Row to Rome
LA Weekly Article: Ex-Addicts Head for Rome Marathon

Boiler Plate: 
Brian Langston, a LA Conservation Corps Alum, recently had the trip of a lifetime. He traveled to Rome, Italy in March for two weeks to run the Rome Marathon and to take in the sights of this historic city. How did this come about, you ask? Well, it happened by chance, really.

The Corps Network Attends National Park Service's Find Your Park Launch Event

Today, members of The Corps Network staff attended a launch event at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. for the National Park Service and National Park Foundation's new Centennial anniversary #FindYourPark campaign. The goal of the initiative is simple: to connect new generations of Americans to their national parks in the ways that they find relevant and enjoyable. So Corps certainly have a role to play, as we know that many people want to volunteer and help maintain and protect their parks. 

The Corps Network staff was able to chat with Paul Ollig, Chief of Interpretation and Education for the National Mall & Memorial Parks.

"One of the great things about national parks is the opportunity to engage with all Americans and empower them to help us protect our national treasures. In 2016, the National Park Service Centennial provides a tremendous opportunity to expand the ways in which we reach out and engage new volunteers & organizations. Service and Conservation Corps and other groups through the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Initiative will be among those who can help us tap the talents of new & diverse generations of stewards. I look forward to working with The Corps Network and other groups to do this," said Ollig.

The official event was short, but included remarks from National Park Service George Washington Memorial Parkway Chief of Staff Aaron LaRocca, National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, White House Council on Environmental Quality Managing Director Christy Goldfuss, and National Park Foundation Acting President Dan Wenk.

The highlight was most certainly the recognition of a 4th grader who had completed 40 Junior Ranger programs nationwide. He was there in support of the Obama Administration's Every Kid in a Park Initiative that connects to the Find Your Park campaign.

The National Park Service also introduced several new exhibits, including a large interactive compass that directs you digitally to parks nationwide.

Last week, the LA Conservation Corps also attended a Find Your Park event and sent us the photo below, featuring LACC Corpsmember Bryan Langston, Russell Galipeau, Superintendant of the Channel Islands National Park, Jonathan Jarvis National Parks Director, and David Szymanski Superintendant of Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area.

The Corps Network looks forward to supporting the Find Your Park initiative over the coming years!

Boiler Plate: 
Today, members of The Corps Network staff attended a launch event at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. for the National Park Service and National Park Foundation's new Centennial anniversary #FindYourPark campaign. The goal of the initiative is simple: to connect new generations of Americans to their national parks in the ways that they find relevant and enjoyable. So Corps certainly have a role to play, as we know that many people want to volunteer and help maintain and protect their parks.
Blog Slideshow: 

Four Service and Conservation Corps Programs First to Obtain New Accreditation

For Immediate Release                                                                                        
November 25, 2014

Announcement of Grants Caps Big Week for 21st Century Conservation Service Corps

This week was a notable one in the continuing cultivation of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Initiative (21CSC). On Monday, The Partnership for the 21CSC hosted it's 4th meeting at the Department of Agriculture's Washington D.C. Headquarters.

On Wednesday, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell with Coca Cola North America President Sandy Douglas announced new 21CSC grants at an event on the Los Angeles River with several Corps in attendance. Keep reading below for more detail on what it means.

4th Partnership for 21CSC Meeting Focuses on Collaboration, Funding, and Celebrating Successes
Representatives from numerous federal agencies, partnering organizations, and 21CSC program operators met in Washington to discuss how to continue making the 21CSC a successful initiative. Most discussions were held in small groups, and focused on key themes including
  • how to find solutions to challenges and barriers that exist in inter-agency collaboration and internal communications
  • how to collect data that is consistent and meaningful across agencies and partners, as well as implement standards across 21CSC program operators to ensure high-quality programs and projects
  • how to identify and put sources of long-term federal funding in place for the 21CSC
  • challenges and opportunities for securing private funding to support the initiative, and how to negotiate meaningful public-private partnerships that are beneficial to all parties
  • federal legislation that would ensure 21CSC has staying power across political administrations
A public afternoon presentation celebrated the successes of the 21CSC to date, and featured speakers from numerous agencies and partners. The next Partnership for 21CSC meeting will be held during The Corps Network's 2015 National Conference, which will take place from February 8-11 in Washington, D.C.  
New 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Grants Support 23 Projects in Collaboration with Six Department of Interior Agencies
On Wednesday, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced new Department of Interior 21CSC grants that were made possible by combining $530,823 private funds with matching funds to create project funds totaling $740,000. According to the Department of Interior, "The projects will employ approximately 160 youth and up to 10 veterans in conservation work benefiting our public lands. These projects will engage approximately 300 volunteers within the local communities and conduct restoration activities on over 200 miles of public land."

The agencies that will partner with 21CSC organizations include the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey.

Of the 23 projects, 19 are going to be completed by members or affiliates of The Corps Network. Many of the projects focus on traditional Corps work such as improving trails, restoring habitat, and environmental education. Some unique project highlights include

  • Conservation Legacy employing two AmeriCorps Environmental Steward program members in South Florida's Everglades ecosystems to work with U.S. Geological Survey biologists to help research and control expanding populations of invasive reptile species.
     
  • Nevada Conservation Corps working with the Bureau of Land Management with six AmeriCorps members to clean-up and reduce the impacts of a recreational shooting range within the Coyote Springs Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
     
  • Utah Conservation Corps employing four Corpsmembers to work with the Bureau of Land Management to build a short trail around the Mill Canyon dinosaur track site to enable more visitors to see the dinosaur tracks while maintaining the site in good condition.
     
  • Arizona and Utah Conservation Corps employing two four-person crews to construct and install several micro-irrigation systems in the northern Navajo Nation that can help encourage gardening, an activity that has obtained renewed interest recently among local communities.

For more information on the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps initiative, please visit www.21csc.org

Bruce Saito, Director of LA Conservation Corps, Receives the Spirit of Los Angeles Award


Bruce Saito receives the Spirit of Los Angeles Award from the mayor of Los Angeles, the Honorable Antonio Villaraigosa (photo from the LACC Facebook page)
 

Story taken from the LA Conservation Corps newsletter, At the Corps - Vol. 3, Issue 5

On Friday, May 10th, Bruce Saito, Executive Director of the LA Conservation Corps, was recognized with the Spirit of Los Angeles Award by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in a ceremony that started in City Council chambers and concluded with lunch and Asian & Pacific Islander American Heritage Month performances on the Plaza.

Bruce joined fellow honorees Jet Tila and LA18 KSCI-TV at a special reception at City Hall before being led into Council Chambers by a Maori tribal dance. Numerous supporters including Board members, current and former staff, former corpsmembers, partner organizations, family members and friends all gathered to honor Bruce's 27 years of service to the LA Conservation Corps. Each of the Councilmembers congratulated Bruce and spoke of his enduring legacy not only to the youth of Los Angeles, but also to the residents, communities, schools, parks, and the rivers and beaches of Southern California that have benefitted from his efforts and service for almost three decades.

Following the formal City Hall ceremony, Bruce and his fellow honorees were presented with Certificates of Appreciation from the City of Los Angeles as part of a community celebration that included musical and dance performances from a variety of Asian cultures and was presided over by ABC News anchor, David Ono. Congratulations to Bruce on receiving one of the City's highest honors. To see more photos of the event and to leave a comment for Bruce, please visit the LACC Facebook photo album.

LA Conservation Corps Plants Over 1,000 Trees Across Los Angeles County

 

Trees are going up in and around Los Angeles thanks to the LA Conservation Corps. Read below to learn about how LACC recently participated in two local tree planting projects.

Taken from Around the Corps, the LACC newsletter, Vol. 3 Issue 3


SEA Lab Corpsmembers plant over 1,000 trees in Lawndale

This month, SEA Lab corpsmembers participated in a tree planting ceremony at a local dog park to celebrate our partnership with the City of Lawndale. City officials joined SEA Lab Director Brent Scheiwe and his crew to plant three Sweet Bay trees. Pictured above from the left (holding shovels) are Mayor Pro Tem Larry Rudolph, Councilmember Pat Kearny, Councilmember Jim Osborne and Mayor Harold Hofmann.  

Corpsmembers will plant 100 trees in the City of Lawndale during the month of March as part of the South Coast Air Quality Management District's Green House Gas Reduction grant. The event also marked another milestone, as Corpsmembers planted their one-thousandth tree for the project. Only 200 remain to be planted under the grant.


LACC helps plant trees at Special Education Center in San Pedro

In honor of California Arbor Week, corpsmembers from our East LA Center teamed up with volunteers from Fresh & Easy and Uniliver to plant 14 Shrubby Yew Pines on the campus of Willenberg Special Education Center School in San Pedro.  The Willenberg School serves over 500 students aged 5 to 22 who are moderately to severely handicapped and/or autistic.

A total of 14 volunteers came out on March 14th to work with four LA Corpsmembers and staff.  The trees were planted around the School's newly built playground to provide shade to the area.  Once the trees were planted, students helped water the trees.  The Willenberg School was very appreciative of our planting efforts and thankful that we included their students in this unique planting opportunity.  The LA Corps looks forward to partnering with Fresh & Easy to continue greening our local schools.

LA Conservation Corps Helps Build a Biofiltration System at Local Field Laboratory

 


Unveiling of the Santa Susana biofilter

Los Angeles Conservation Corps recently attended the opening of a new biofiltration system at Santa Susana Field Laboratory. LACC Corpsmembers helped construct the system. Read below for more information.

Taken from At the Corps, the LACC Newsletter, Vol. 3 Issue 3

The Boeing Company, a panel of internationally recognized surface water experts, representatives from the LA Conservation Corps, Pollinator Partnership and members of the public were on-hand last week during the unveiling of Boeing's new biofiltration system which harnesses natural processes to treat storm water runoff while promoting pollinator habitats at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, a former rocket engine test and energy research site.

"Our new biofiltration system supports Boeing's overall strategy to use natural processes to treat storm water and is one component of the company's comprehensive surface water treatment programs," said Paul Costa, Boeing's environmental operations and compliance manager. 

The new $600,000 biofilter uses natural settling, plant uptake, soil processes and specially designed filter media to capture sediment and pollutants before releasing cleaner water back into the watershed.

 

Boeing partnered with the LA Conservation Corps to plant over 2000 California native plants and collaborated with the Pollinator Partnership to ensure the landscape would support diverse pollinators. The result is a biofilter that acts like a natural ecosystem.

Corpsmembers worked on the project for eight weeks, beginning with a day of safety training and a tour of the facilities. In addition to the planting, corpsmembers created a "learning walk," including 350 feet of walking path, 2 benches and interpretive signage that educates visitors about biofiltration.

Since acquiring its portion of the site in 1996, Boeing has made significant progress toward cleanup and restoration and is moving toward the company's goal of preserving the site as open space parkland. For more information, visit www.boeing.com/santasusana. To see more photos of the project, please visit the LACC Facebook page.