CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A 12-member team of young people made an amazing and positive impression on the members of the Coal River Group and the citizens in Southern West Virginia.
The National Civilian Community Corps Team arrived at the CRG Science and Education Center on Aug. 17. The group was welcomed by members of the CRG and, of course, they received a good old West Virginia welcome along with a large meal provided by volunteers.
The young team (ages 18 to 25) had different accents. They grew up in cities such as Los Angeles, New York and Cincinnati, but they all had one thing in common: They were ready to work.
The federal program that sponsors the team is the AmeriCorps NCCC. Interestingly it was derived originally from the well-known and respected Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s. Like the original, this program is dedicated to working directly with communities to address pressing needs. Both enroll young volunteers in a 10-month program that develops work plans to follow the belief that civic responsibility is an inherent duty of all citizens. In West Virginia, we still utilize the many CCC-built cabins at Babcock State Park and enjoy the recreational and infrastructure that program brought to our state in those dark days of the '30s.
The kids we have had the privilege to work with were truly devoted to working to accomplish specific goals. The program and the team had no political goals. The team came to West Virginia to help the Coal River Group accomplish river restoration projects, and they left 14 days later with a lengthy list of accomplishments.
How can you put a dollar value on the impact of work that resulted in the elimination of over 1,000 tires from the river? How can you measure the long-term impact of building over half a mile of new trails at a small park in western Kanawha County? What value can you give to the removal of thick, stubborn brush that has covered a county park's entry to a new river access boat launch?
The NCCC team constructed a 100-foot safety portage walkway around the dangerous Upper Falls dam. With the help of Lois Ludwig, an expert in trail building, the team added and improved trails in the CRG Barnette Conservation Preserve near St. Albans and worked tirelessly to build new nature trails at Meadowood Park. They cut brush in many areas and cleared trash and debris from the Upper Falls riverbank.
The team leader, Adam Severing, grew up in Cincinnati but adapted readily to our West Virginia culture. The team camped out and slept in sleeping bags at the Coal River Group River Science and Education Center while they worked in the watershed.