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AmeriCorps teams work on new Sugarloaf Mountain Trail

Submitted to The Union

“I wanted to take a year between high school and college to travel, meet new people and learn new skills,” said Evan Orjala, 18, a member of AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) from Northfield, Minnesota. “What I found was that I am not only learning hands on skills such as building trails and removing invasive species, but also interpersonal skills such as how to live with a group.”

Each year, AmeriCorps NCCC engages teams of members in community projects across the United States. Service projects, which typically last from six to eight weeks, address critical needs related to natural and other disasters, infrastructure improvement, environmental stewardship,conservation, and urban and rural development. In return, team members get to travel, gain hands-on work experience and professional skills training, and earn money towards their education.

Bear Yuba Land Trust and Woolman at Sierra Friends Center recently hosted an Americorps NCCC team made up of twelve young adults, ages 18 to 23, some from as far as Kansas, Massachusetts and Alabama and many who had never been to the West Coast before. Over the course of eight weeks, the team worked with BYLT’s Trails Coordinator Bill Haire and Stewardship Manager Elias Grant on a variety of local projects including forest thinning, fuels reduction and invasive plant removal on the Adam Ryan Preserve near Alta Sierra, along with breaking ground on new trails such as the Sugarloaf Mountain Trail in Nevada City.

“I always enjoy working with the NCCC teams. They are very good young people, with a lot of potential,” said Haire. “This year, they, along with community volunteers, were instrumental in the clearing and removal of large amounts of brush – including tree size Manzanitas – from the preliminary line for the new Sugarloaf Mountain Trail. Without their help, this could have taken us much longer.”

Sugarloaf Mountain is the iconic landmark just north of Nevada City. The goal of the new trail is to connect downtown Nevada City to the top of the mountain, which offers spectacular 360 degree views of downtown Nevada City, Coastal Mountains, Sierra Nevada Mountains, and beyond. The trail will also connect to Hirschman Trail and Tobiassen Park via a recently established county trail that runs west from North Bloomfield Road to the Eric Rood Administrative Center.

“We are excited about the construction of the Sugarloaf Trail. Trails within walking distance of our residents encourages healthy activity and also provide a no-cost recreational facility for the entire community,” said Dawn Zydonis, Parks and Recreation Manager, City of Nevada City. “The views along the proposed route are amazing and we believe the community is going to thoroughly enjoy hiking and biking this trail when completed.”

The long term impact of past NCCC teams can still be seen and felt with projects such as the eradication of Scotch Broom at the Adam Ryan Preserve. After nearly five years of help from NCCC and community volunteers, the preserve is almost entirely free of the invasive plant, helping to improve fire safety, among other things.

“NCCC teams are instrumental in helping BYLT complete important trail and restoration projects throughout the community. Equally important for the team members is the service experience gained as well as seeing the impact of their work,” explained Grant.

At the end of their eight week assignment many of the NCCC team members returned to their hometowns or went to work on other projects around the United States. Many expressed their pride in the work they were able to accomplish during their stay in Nevada County.

“The work we are doing will make it easier for people to walk the trails,” said De’ Janae Martin, 22, of Houston, TX. “Walking the trails relieves the stress of everyday life and creates a happy and peaceful community.”

If you are interested in volunteering with the BYLT Trails Stewardship Team, go to http://www.bylt.org to sign up for an upcoming work day or email Felicia Dunn, Community Engagement Coordinator, at felicia@bylt.org.


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