Utah Conservation Corps' Bike Program Receives Federal Funding, Featured on Public Radio


Credit Matt Jensen - Aggie Blue Bikes 'wrench lady' Katie Harker works on a bicycle at the campus shop.

Editor's Note: Aggie Blue Bikes is a program of the Utah Conservation Corps 

From utahpublicradio.org - by Matt Jensen

Aggie Blue Bikes – the campus shop famous for its Aggie-Blue colored bicycles –will receive nearly $90,000 for a major remodel scheduled for later this year. Program coordinator Stephanie Tomlin says the project will open the shop up for additional space, meaning more work benches, additional student tool boards and more bike storage.

Aggie Blue Bikes offers those in the USU community free bike rentals, access to tools and advice and cycling education. Team members here say each bike goes through a rigorous inspection to make sure they're fit for the road. A typical safety check starts with a look at the paint, then the seat, then...

"Headset, handlebars, shifters, brake levers, grips, cables, bottom bracket, pedals, chain cassette, hubs, wheel trueness, brakes, tire pressure, stem and reflectors," says Ryan Keepers with a deep breath. "It's a very comprehensive checkup."

Keepers and Katie Harker are two staff members at Aggie Blue Bikes who help keep the bikes in top shape.

At its core, the Blue Bikes program advocates cycling as a viable form of transportation on campus and around town. Program coordinator Stephanie Tomlin:

"We're always looking to get more people on more bikes more often," she said. "That's kind of our catchphrase. And we do so through lending, education and advocacy."

Students and faculty can rent bikes for 24 hours, or for up to three months. Last year, Aggie Blue Bikes checked out more than 600 three-month rental bikes, 900 24-hour rentals and helped 3,000 USU community members with personal bicycle repair and advice.

"Any opportunity we have to further that movement toward opening streets to be more cycling and pedestrian friendly, we're in support of that," she added. "And we can't forget that our roots are entrenched in improving the air quality here."

The money for the remodel comes from the federal government’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program. Tomlin says the money will be used to improve on-site bike storage as well as updating the facility with a credit card reader and better software to streamline the check-out process. Long-term bike rentals are so popular at Aggie Blue Bikes, Tomlin says it’s difficult to keep up in the crowded facility.

"The three-month rentals are really the bread and butter of Blue Bikes," said Tomlin. "We have over 260 bikes in that fleet. They're extremely popular. The idea behind them is to get people on a bike as a sustainable form of transportation. It's a little more involved than just taking a quick trip somewhere - we want people to commit to it."

By removing the barriers to cycling, Tomlin and her staff say the program can help reduce vehicle miles traveled by USU community members. 

Providing Relief – What Corps Have Done to Assist in Hurricane Sandy Recovery Efforts


Washington Conservation Corps members remove damaged household items from a flooded home

Hurricane Sandy took lives, destroyed homes and businesses, and left millions of people without power. As the storm bore down on the Northeast coast during the last days of October, Corps across the country were already mobilizing to help with the relief effort. Corpsmembers have played a significant role in helping communities in New York, New Jersey and 5 other states recover and rebuild.

Some Corps worked through the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and FEMA, while others organized independent of the federal response. Some Corps worked in shelters, while others cleared debris. Some Corps travelled thousands of miles to assist in the relief efforts, while other Corps worked in their own backyards.

Find out which Corps have been involved in Sandy recovery, read about what they’ve done to help, and see pictures from the field:

Corps Involved in recovery efforts 

Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa Corpsmembers “mucking out” a home damaged by flood water

What are some of the things Corps have done?

  • Operated emergency shelters throughout New York City: managed volunteers, monitored and assisted residents, cared for children and pets, maintained the facilities
  • Cleared debris
  • Cut down damaged trees and limbs
  • “Mucking out” - removing water and water damaged items and building materials from homes and businesses affected by flooding
  • Solicited donations of food and emergency supplies from individuals and businesses not hit as hard by the storm
  • Operated distribution centers and packaged emergency supplies for Sandy victims in need of food, water, blankets, clothing, toiletries, and other necessities
  • Canvassed neighborhoods to find people in need and spread information about repair work
  • Restored parks damaged by high winds 

NYRP clearing a downed tree in New York City 

AmeriCorps NCCC/FEMA Corps members assisting with water distribution in Far Rockaway, NY.

Get more pictures and more information on the recovery efforts and Corpsmember experiences

Student Conservation Association (SCA) Corpsmember in New Jersey

Southwest Conservation Corps members working with FDNY

Utah Conservation Corps members surrounded by the devastation of Hurricane Sandy 

Green City Force Corpsmembers and staff serving food 

Montana Conservation Corps members organize supplies at a distribution center

New Jersey Youth Corps clearing a downed tree







Where are they now? – Catching up with 2011 Corpsmember of the Year, Oscar Alejandro Marquina

Oscar A. Marquina, a former member of the Utah Conservation Corps, won Corpsmember of the Year in 2011 for his leadership skills and commitment to service. Read below to find out what he's been up to since accepting his award, or find out more about Oscar and his Corps experience by reading his bio from our 2011 National Conference.

Do rivers and lakes need regular health checkups just like people do? Ask Oscar Marquina.

“Basically I am a water doctor,” said Oscar. “I travel around doing different examinations making sure my patients - rivers and lakes - recover their health or stay healthy.”

Oscar, a former member of the Utah Conservation Corps, is currently interning with the Utah Division of Water Quality. Prior to this internship, he worked as a laboratory technician at the Utah Research Water Lab. Oscar has visited over 40 lakes throughout the state of Utah, collecting water samples and checking various water quality parameters. All this experience and Oscar is still just 23 years old.

Oscar and his family emigrated from Venezuela to the United States in 2001. Seven years later, Oscar was fluent in English and serving as one of two original Crew Leaders for the Utah Conservation Corps’ Bilingual Youth Corps (BYC). With his language skills and his ability to relate with the growing Latino population of Northern Utah, Oscar became instrumental in making the Bilingual Youth Corps a success. He translated informational brochures into Spanish, held orientation meetings in Spanish, and conducted interviews for potential Corpsmembers in both English and Spanish. 

“It wasn’t until I left [the Corps] that I realized I helped in laying the structure for future BYC programs,” said Oscar. “I didn’t think all the minute logistical details we discussed would help in future years. It is definitely a pleasant surprise knowing the heart and effort I had given for a summer program was then duplicated every summer after the first.”

Before joining the Utah Conservation Corps, Oscar loved the outdoors but he had never considered the amount of work that goes into the conservation projects needed to preserve parks and trails. Oscar joined the Corps simply because it seemed like it would be fun to spend his summer vacation in a setting where he could exercise his bilingual skills. Now, however, Oscar feels that the Corps can offer a lot more than just a fun summer job.

“For those who are new to this country, the Bilingual Youth Corps is ideal for many reasons. First it teaches Corpsmembers ownership of their new community through service and travel. To someone who is learning the language, it will speed up the education process by creating unique opportunities and interactions outside the classroom,” said Oscar. “It is also important to allow new immigrants to express themselves in their native tongue which may have been restricted at schools or other jobs simply because of the non-bilingual dynamics of such institutions.”

In preparation for when his internship ends in October 2012, Oscar has been networking, filling out applications and going to interviews. He wants to gain work experience before he eventually returns to school. Oscar graduated from Utah State University in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering, and he is now interested in pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree.

Oscar’s time in the Corps may have ended in 2010, but he is still involved in service opportunities. He recently finished a tutoring position at a Utah high school where he helped students – most of them Latinos or Burmese refugees – with their homework and ACT preparation.

“My goal at the moment is to find a job that allows me to help communities and people,” said Oscar. “I would love to work for a company that allows me to travel and use my Spanish skills.”

Oscar says one of the things he loved most about his experience with the Corps was getting to meet interesting people from all walks of life. He says he feels like each individual BYC member he worked with stands out in his mind. He is still good friends with many of these members; they follow each other on Facebook and get together to hangout. He also stops by the Utah Conservation Corps offices to say hello to the staff whenever he is nearby.

To young people thinking of joining a service or conservation corps, Oscar says:

“If you have not figured out what exact experience you need in life, but you have the heart and drive to volunteer and provide a service to your community, the corps will be a way to seize the day and gain inspiration and illumination for any future endeavors.”


Utah Conservation Corps Recognized with BLM Youth Award


From Utah State Today - University News

The Bureau of Land Management recognized the Utah Conservation Corps (UCC) with a Youth Superstar Partnership award. UCC program director Kate Stephens (shown on right) accepted the award from BLM’s Utah State Director Juan Palma (on left) at a BLM executive management team meeting Oct. 9 in Richfield, Utah.

The UCC has partnered with the BLM since the UCC’s inception in 2001, to address critical conservation projects while training and developing the next generation of service and conservation leaders.

“The goal of BLM Utah’s Youth Program is to re-connect a new generation of young people to the great outdoors and careers in natural resources,” said Jeanette Matovich, BLM Utah Youth Program lead. “The Utah Conservation Corps has provided outstanding outdoor employment opportunities to diverse youth groups, including the Bilingual Youth Corps.

“For years, the BLM and UCC have worked together to provide employment opportunities, and educate future citizen stewards on why it is important to protect and conserve public land. We look forward to expanding our partnership with Utah State University and working with them for many years to come.”

Continue Reading at the Utah State Today Website

Where are they now? - Catching up with 2010 Corpsmember of the Year, Quintin Williams


Quintin Williams, a former member of the Utah Conservation Corps, won Corpsmember of the Year in 2010 for his leadership skills and commitment to service. Read below to find out what he's been up to since accepting his award, or find out more about Quintin and his Corps experience by reading his bio from our 2010 National Conference.

It’s been over three years since Quintin Williams worked as a Crew Leader for the Utah Conservation Corps, but he still gives a lot of credit to UCC for where he is today. In the summers of 2008 and 2009, Quintin worked with UCC’s Disability Inclusive Crew; a program that offers service opportunities to people with a wide array of physical handicaps. Before joining the Corps, Quintin's only experience with the disabled had been with blind people like himself. He felt that his experience with the blind and visually impaired community made him knowledgeable about disabilities, but working with members of the Inclusive Crew completely changed his perspective.

“Working in the crew was very eye-opening for me because I just really had no idea what those people were going through and it actually humbled me quite a bit,” said Quintin, discussing in particular how inspiring it was to work with a Corpsmember who had multiple sclerosis. “I’m always frustrated by how I can’t see so I can’t drive and I have to rely on so many different people to get from point A to point B. But some of the other people on the crew, they might not be able to even get out of bed on their own. You take a lot of things for granted even though you don’t realize you do until you’re put into a different situation. It was amazing.”

These days, Quintin is working for the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. He started working there as a proofreader for Braille classroom materials, but now he will be in charge of all the assistive technologies used in USDB classrooms. Quintin will train teachers on the devices their deaf and blind students use, and make sure these devices work properly. He will also be in charge of managing all the software – such as screen reader programs – that are used in USDB sites throughout the state. Quintin says he can definitely see himself in this job for years to come.

Before joining UCC, however, Quintin – who is now 28 – was not sure where his future was headed. He tried finding work, but few employers were willing to give him a chance. When he interviewed for the UCC Inclusive Crew he was excited that they basically accepted him on the spot.

Quintin says the Corps did much more than expose him to people with different disabilities. As he says, “I feel like without the Corps I don’t really know where I would be. It gave me work experience that employers can really see and I gained a lot of friends and professional relationships from it.”

Quintin is proud of the work he accomplished at UCC. He was part of a team that surveyed public lands and created a database documenting the level of accessibility at parks and campgrounds. Quintin says it’s important to realize that people with disabilities love the outdoors, too. While completing the park surveys, he was shocked by how many campgrounds and parks did not even have wheelchair-accessible bathrooms. He is happy to know that his team’s efforts resulted in information the National Park Service can actually use to accommodate disabled park-goers.

For now, Quintin plans to continue working for the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. He wants to move closer to work, build up a comfortable retirement fund and start a family. He wants to work on his new hobby of golf. Quintin hopes to use his summers off to finish the last few credits he needs to get his associate’s degree, and hopefully work on a bachelor’s degree.

To young people thinking of joining a Corps, Quintin says:

“The Corps is kind of like a culture or a lifestyle almost. But I wouldn’t exclude the opportunity to join a Corps based on whether it might not be the same kind of lifestyle that you are currently living or plan on living. It’s only a short term thing, but it can definitely open a lot of doors. Just take the opportunity seriously and work hard at it. Not only is it benefiting you, but it’s benefiting community members – it’s bettering the situation for everybody.”



Utah Conservation Corps Bilingual Youth Corps Highlighted

Photo by Eli Lucero - Herald Journal 

"Youth corps introduces uninitiated to great outdoors" 

TONY GROVE — On a bright Wednesday morning just before 9 a.m., Tony Grove is virtually silent, save for a few birds chirping and the gentle gallop of horseback riders off in the distance.

But only a half hour later, a group from the Utah Conservation Corps Bilingual Youth Corps have arrived — doing some stretching, laughing, and then preparing for a 4-mile hike into the wilderness terrain to White Pine Lake.

Their gear includes yellow hard hats, boots, axes, shovels, and backpacks stuffed with food and water. And who can forget their uniforms: A pine green shirt spotting the UCC logo.

“OK, off like a herd of turtles,” said Kate Stephens, program director for the Utah Conservation Corps, as the 12-member group headed up the path that would lead them to the lake.

The trip was part of the final week of a five week session of Bilingual Youth Corps, an extension of the Utah Conservation Corps, which is under the USU AmeriCorps. The final week of the session is conducted entirely outside, and for that week, the group was assigned to put up signs and repair existing ones in the White Pine Lake area.

Founded in 2008, Bilingual Youth Corps is now in its fourth year.

“The Latino population had exploded over the last decade,” Stephens said in an interview on her reason for founding the youth corps. “The Latino community does not recreate as much on our public lands — generally, it’s just not a part of their culture — so this was an opportunity to reach out. ”

She continued, “We wanted our UCC to be representative of a changing demographic in Logan.”

Read more about this innovative program and this project here.

2008 Project of the Year: Making Outdoor Recreation More Accessible

Winner: Utah Conservation Corps

Through the "Access to Service Project," Utah Conservation Corps developed service projects to include crew members with disablities. Fifty percent of the 8-person crew self-identified as having a physical disability. Disabilities among members included quadriplegia, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury and cerebral palsy.

In the first of their two main projects, the inclusive crew partherned with the US Forest Service to conduct an accessbility evaluation of the Wasatche-Chache National Forest and create a transition plan to help them meet federal requirements. They developed a user-friendly accessbility survey form that has become the standard for the region. They completed accessbility surveys for 8 campgrounds and 2 trails and developed 10 transition plans, immediately addressing the issues identified in one of the transition plans by constructing a fully accessible fishing pier at Second Dam picnic area in Logan Canyon. They partnered with Common Ground Outdoor Adventures, Logan City, local Boy Scouts and the Forest Service to make this happen.

For the second project: an accessible greenhouse and adapted gardening tools. The crew grew tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplant, squash and herbs in raised beds and table top planters.

Another "Access to Service" goal was to involve people with disabilities in positions of leadership. Andy Zimmer, who has quadriplegia, served as a crew leader. By placing people with disabilities in positions of leadership, outdated stereotypes that limit people with disabilities are shattered and attitudes toward people with disabilities evolve and change. 

2006 Corpsmember of the Year: Andrew Zimmer

In the last year, Andrew Zimmer has impressed the Forest Service with the quality and amount of work produced by his crew, fallen in love with Logan Canyon, Utah and developed an unexpected yet clear picture of where his life is heading.

An AmeriCorps crew leader for the Utah Conservation Corps, Andrew showed his crew that anyting is possible. Their assignment was to construct two miles of fencing along a very steep and inaccessible area. This would allow the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout, a rare and declining species, to be protected from the diseases that grazing cattle passed on when drinking from the creek. This project was essential to the survival of the trout population. Andrew, a leader who brings out the best in others around him, took special interest in each crew member to make sure their experience was rewarding and insightful.

Toward the end his term, Andrew was in a bike accident that resulted in paralysis from the chest down. Andrew said that within an hour of his accident, he knew he wanted to work in accessible outdoor recreation. His philosophy about stewardship of our natural resources is that you cannot get sustainable results without the awareness and enthusiasm of people. Andrew has brought this idea and passion to Utah and the UCC. He plans on completing his AmeriCorps term after rehabilitation and continuting to work in the place he loves. 

2010 Corpsmember of the Year: Quintin Williams

***Update! Click here to read about what Quintin has been up to since he won his award***

(Written in 2010)

Before joining the Corps, Quintin Williams was like many young people, working an unsatisfying job that provided little challenge.

Quintin sought out the Utah Conservation Corps (UCC) and the Inclusive Crew where Corpsmembers with and without disabilities surveyed campgrounds and trails for Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines. Quintin himself is completely blind, and previous work opportunities had been with others who were blind or visually impaired. 

The Inclusive Crew’s mix, including mobility disabilities, gave Quintin a more complex understanding of accommodation. In addition, Quintin inspired his crewmates and used humor to break down barriers and honestly communicate about differences in ability, demonstrating a natural leadership that led him to promotion as crew leader.

Under Quintin’s leadership the crew took a local project and made it national: developing a new accessibility information database for the Forest Service that will provide the public with information on accessible campsites, facilities, and services.  The database is a leap forward for the Forest Service in its transition planning—and, by no accident, accessible to those who use a screen reader.

Quintin is a leader and ambassador for accessibility on public lands—one of the nation’s rising leaders in the field of service.

2011 Corpsmember of the Year: Oscar Alejandro Marquina

***Update! Click here to read about what Oscar has been up to since he won his award***

(Written in 2011 - some details may have changed)

In 2001 Oscar immigrated to the United States from Venezuela with his family. Seven years later, Oscar had learned to speak English and was serving as one of two original Crew Leaders for the Utah Conservation Corps Bilingual Youth Corps. 

After serving in this position for two summers, he was promoted to Senior Crew Leader in 2010. Oscar was instrumental in the development of this new program which was started in an effort to meet the needs of the growing Latino community in Northern Utah. His background and personal experience enabled him to understand and connect with Latino youth and their families. 

He held parent orientation meetings in Spanish and enabled potential members to complete their applications and conduct their interviews in Spanish or English. As finding transportation is often a challenge for low income youth, Oscar worked with guidance counselors to set up interviews at local high schools to work around this barrier. He also translated UCC materials and training resources into both languages. Oscar has become an incredible role model and mentor for Latino youth in Northern Utah.

He has demonstrated that a young Latino immigrant can learn English, gain valuable works skills, and obtain a college degree. In addition to encouraging Corpsmembers to pursue higher education, Oscar himself will graduate this year from Utah State University with a degree in Environmental Engineering, with hopes of pursuing a Masters degree in the future.

In his free time, Oscar also works with Engineers without Borders, an international program that helps create a more stable and prosperous world by addressing basic human needs such as clean water, power, sanitation, and education. He even led a trail maintenance workshop at the organization’s annual conference last Fall, illustrating that Oscar has become a distinguished ambassador for the work that organizations like the Utah Conservation Corps do.