A bit less than 2 miles from the Columbine Canyon Trailhead, a group of young people is 18 total days into a project to rebuild the bridge at the third river crossing (the fourth, if you count the small crossing over Deer Creek) on the Columbine Canyon Trail accessed via the canyon between Red River and Questa.
A polite, friendly group, its members divide up tasks, laugh, sweat and, occasionally, succumb to injury, as with Bri Lucarelli, of Deep River, Connecticut. In another hour — at about 4 p.m. — they will break for “high tea” before continuing to work well into the evening.
As much as it is possible to “rush” the work of sawing, hewing, pounding and piling rocks, this group of staffers from the Southwest Conservation Corps has a Tuesday afternoon deadline. The staffers depart Wednesday morning for their next assignment rebuilding the trail up to Willow Creek Lake at the base of Kit Carson Peak outside Crestone, Colorado.
According to the SCC website, AmeriCorps Conservation Camping Crews, a program based in Southern Colorado, can help young adults ages 18-25 “complete challenging and impactful conservation and service projects throughout Colorado and Northern New Mexico. Projects include trail building, fuels reduction, riparian restoration, erosion control, tree planting, fencing, and exotic plant removal. Corps members earn a living allowance while learning valuable work and life skills.”
This program requires the members of the group to work 900 hours on wilderness programs throughout the Southwest.
“It’s probably the best job I’ve ever had,” said Lucas Potter, of Bozrah, Connecticut. “There’s definitely value in the work I’m doing. I feel like I’m making a difference in these communities. I’m doing my part conserving public lands.”
Co-worker Colleen Casey, of Richmond, Virginia, added, “I am am doing it because I’m passionate about the environment. This job challenges me to think about how I want to pursue protecting the environment in the future. It challenges me to question how this supports what I believe … plus it’s hard work and that’s always good.”