DOINews: BLM-California: Veterans Conservation Crew Restores Trails at National Monument

Last edited 09/05/2019

Sledge hammers, shovels, crowbars and pure muscle were the tools used by 13 members of a Veterans Conservation Corps and 21 community volunteers as they worked side-by-side on a trail-restoration project in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, just outside Palm Springs, Calif.

The volunteers came out for a one-day joint project organized by Friends of the Desert Mountains and the Desert Trails Hiking Club. Working together, the whole team repaired almost two miles of trail.

The trail restoration work is part of a longer four-week project by an all-veterans conservation crew to improve popular hiking trails in the Monument. Edison International awarded a $35,000 grant to the Conservation Lands Foundation for this effort.

Veterans Conservation Crew, BLM and volunteers from Friends of the Desert Mountains and Desert Trails Hiking Club posing for group photo
Veterans Conservation Crew, BLM and volunteers from Friends of the Desert Mountains and Desert Trails Hiking Club restore trails

The 13-person crew is made up entirely of post-9/11 military veterans and is part of the California Conservation Corps. They will be making improvements to the Art Smith, Hopalong Cassidy and Bear Creek Oasis trails to help stop erosion, repair trail berms and clear brush — making the area more accessible and easier for visitors to hike in the monument.

"We're grateful for the funding provided by Edison International because it has created a powerful partnership," said Charlotte Overby of the Conservation Lands Foundation. "It provides jobs for veterans, accomplishes some much-needed restoration work on a beautiful National Monument, and results in real benefits for the public."

Two veterans moving a large boulder from the trail.

These committed veterans crush rock with sledges and move large boulders from the trail.

The crew will tackle work on more than 10 miles of trail, much of it rugged and remote. The goal is to improve three popular trails — one of which goes through a Wilderness area — for visitors and to enhance the surrounding habitat.

The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument includes spectacular desert scenery, critical wildlife habitat for animals including Peninsular bighorn sheep, and more than 300 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding and some for mountain biking. The monument receives hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and is part of the National Conservation Lands, managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service in coordination with Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and other partners.

The crew and volunteers walking along the trail.
The crew and volunteers repaired two miles of trail along the Hopalong Cassidy Trail in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.

In addition to pay, crew members also receive training and mentoring that can help them apply for permanent positions with public land management agencies.

"This is a unique project for the CCC, and we're pleased to work together with all the different partners," said Rhody Soria, conservation supervisor for the CCC. "For our veterans crew, they have the chance to gain great trail-building skills while increasing the recreational opportunities in the area."

Veteran working on the trail

The crew is made up of young adults who are all reentering the workforce after completing military service.

"This project is a win-win for both the vets and the community. It will make a positive difference in the lives of the veterans and give them hands-on restoration experience while making substantial improvements to the trails so more people can enjoy the beauty of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument," said Steven Harris, BLM outdoor recreation planner.

Story by: Martha Maciel, BLM; photos by: Bob Wick, BLM

Feb. 24, 2014

Was this page helpful?

Please provide a comment