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Trails Across Texas is a unique partnership between two organizations synonymous with trails in the State of Texas: American YouthWorks’ Environmental Corps and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

 

arrow This project was nominated for a Community Service Award as part of the 2010 National Trails Awards, announced at the 20th National Trails Symposium in Chatanooga, TN.

 

American YouthWorks puts young people to work on "Trails Across Texas"

 

Trails Across Texas brings together a group of eighteen diverse young people per year in pursuit of conservation and national service. Crew members gain new skills and experience the vast ecological diversity of Texas, from the East Texas Pineywoods to desert and mountains in the west and everything in between.

photo of timber steps

Crew building trail steps - photo from
Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine

Environmental Corps (E-Corps) houses the Trails Across Texas crew, which is a skilled high-production crew of motivated AmeriCorps National Service Volunteers who travel throughout the state of Texas, building and maintaining trails in state parks. Trails Across Texas members are often second-term enrollees in our program that, because of their outstanding service to their community, have earned the chance to serve on this specialized team.

Trails Across Texas is a relatively new endeavor, the first major partnership between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and E-Corps. Now in its second year, the Trails Across Texas program has completed a wide variety of projects including the construction and maintenance of natural surface trails as well as the construction of over one and a half miles of compacted surface for an ADA accessible trail, thereby increasing accessibility by disabled individuals. They have also built over 700 feet elevated boardwalk over traditionally swampy areas and even cleared hurricane damaged trees from nearly three miles of canoe trail. In its first year the Trails Across Texas crew constructed or maintained over fifteen miles of trail.

These members camp and work on-site for up to eleven days at a time, performing all their essential program duties while in the field. Members receive in-depth training in erosion control techniques, trail design and maintenance, naturalist principles and Leave No Trace camping skills. These members are considered to be among the elite trail builders in the state of Texas and their services are in high demand throughout the Texas state parks system.

The Trails Across Texas partnership has brought positive public exposure to the field of trail implementation through media articles featuring the collaboration as well as positive feedback from both park users and the State Parks Staff. The May 2010 edition of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine featured a five-page article on the crew and their work throughout Texas. The Gonzales Inquirer (Gonzales, Texas) ran an article on May 8, 2009 about Trails Across Texas work done to improve trails in Palmetto State Park. The article summarized the sentiment of Todd Imboden, the Superintendent of the park: “Imboden had nothing but kind words for the entire crew, saying they all worked very hard and performed a quality job for the park.”

photo of two young women with big rock

hauling rocks with griphoist and highline rigging

Members learn proper trail construction and maintenance techniques, including building trail features out of both logs and stone. Chainsaw training is based on the US Forest Service’s S-212, and teaches members essential chainsaw operation, safety and maintenance. For occasions when the site is to remote or sensitive for heavy machinery, members are instructed in the use of the griphoist and highline rigging. When possible, crew members are also trained in the operation of such machines as the skid steer, roller packer, and tractor. Members are also encouraged to learn GIS/ GPS skills from our GIS specialist in order to create maps and track project data.

As the sole Texas Youth Corps provider for the past 15 years, E-Corps participants have completed 130 trail building and maintenance projects totaling 170,000+ yards of new or improved trail surface. In addition, the completion of 360 habitat restoration projects in local parks and natural areas have helped preserve endangered animal populations, restore native habitat, remove invasive plant species and prevent erosion in sensitive aquifer recharge areas.

Project partners estimate that our projects benefit 500,000 park users each year. Paul Fushile, a biologist for Travis County, TX, has commented that without E-Corps significant involvement in habitat restoration efforts there would no longer be any black capped vireos, an endangered species, surviving on Travis County Preservation Lands in Austin, Texas.

For all of the work that E-Corps has completed, the program has been recognized with such honors as:

photo of group of young workers

American YouthWorks crew

Andy Goldbloom, TPWD Recreational Trail Program and Boating Access Program Manager, reported that feedback from state parks staff has been extremely positive and that with budget and staffing limitations, work is being done that might not otherwise could be. Elaine Weaver, trail ranger at Cooper Lake State Park commented on the strong work ethic of the crew and noted that even on the park’s highly-erodible equestrian trail; the Trails Across Texas crew work was “still pristine.”

Through this partnership, nine projects were completed in 2009 including construction of: a boardwalk trail around Lake Raven and Alligator Branch Creek, a wheelchair-accessible trail along the San Marcos River, a native stone stairway and a new bridge in McKinney Falls State Park. So far in 2010, the crew has performed trail restoration work in the following State Parks: Bastrop, Cooper Lake, Caprock Canyons and Palmetto.

Trails Across Texas is a unique partnership between two organizations synonymous with trails in the State of Texas: American YouthWorks’ Environmental Corps and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Through this partnership, the State of Texas is able to improve and beautify its trail system leading to an improved quality of life for its residents. E-Corps members are given the opportunity to earn an education award and learn new skills while participating in National Service. Members who have graduated the program leave with the necessary skills and experience for a career in the conservation field and the ethic of service formed almost 100 years ago by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

American YouthWorks (AYW) has almost thirty years of experience developing programs to improve the lives of youth in Central Texas. Recently voted the Best Place to Plan for Your Future by the Austin Chronicle, AYW’s goal has always been to provide youth with the skills and opportunities they need to succeed. To this end, AYW operates a charter high school offering high school diplomas and GED preparation as well as skill building service corps and jobs training programs, including: Computer Corps, Casa Verde Builders, Green Energy Corps and Environmental Corps.

Environmental Corps (E-Corps) is a nationally recognized and celebrated leader in environmental conservation programs that is modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930’s. Young people who choose to join E-Corps are typically ages 17 to 28 and are motivated by a desire to seek education and experience in conservation and preservation efforts while engaging in service to their community and nation. The demographic make-up of current participants is: 55% male, 45% female; 44.5% Hispanic, 36% White, and 18.4% African-American. Members serve terms of six months to a year and earn an education award of up to $4,725 for use for tertiary education; including some trade schools and even student loan repayment.

 

For more information:

American YouthWorks
1901 East Ben White Blvd., Austin, TX 78741
(512) 423-2887
www.americanyouthworks.org

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