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. Students and staff of the Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center contributed over 250 hours of service on the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests as a part of this year’s efforts.
A group of U.S. Forest Service Job Corps facilities maintenance students worked with the national Cradle of Forestry office center in the Pisgah National Forest to enhance public facilities there. They took on a conservation project to increase weed suppression for converting turf grass into wildflower meadows as well as undertaking general landscaping maintenance.
The Cradle of Forestry, a 6,500 acre historic site set aside by Congress to commemorate the beginning of forestry conservation in the United States, has hosted visitors for a century. The site offers a snap shot of life at America’s first school of forestry along the Biltmore Campus Trail near Brevard, N.C. and continues a legacy of forest conservation history.
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.
In another forest volunteer project, Forest Service Job Corps students paired with staff from the Cheoah Ranger District and worked on building five access points to Santeetlah Creek for anglers at the Rattler Ford Group Campground.
“These new steps dramatically improve access for campground users and visitors and 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 accessible picnic spots at the popular Massey Branch area.
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.
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 1.2 million acres on the National Forests of North Carolina have many special places that thrive on volunteer service for sustained recreation, education, and preservation.
U.S. Forest Service Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers offer hands-on training in over 30 vocational trades, including cement masonry, welding, business technology, painting, carpentry, bricklaying, food service and culinary arts, and forestry. All centers are co-educational and offer non-traditional vocational training to females. Approximately 90 percent of Job Corps graduates obtain jobs, enlist in the military or enroll in higher education.