Hard labor pays off for YCC

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By Jennifer Garcia

A slight breeze brought much needed relief to members of the Youth Conservation Corps Friday, as they took a short break from their laborious work on the county’s trail system.


Two groups gathered under a couple of small trees, enjoying the little bit of shade the trees provided. Some sipped from their water bottles, while others just sat and enjoyed the time away from working.


Work for the group of 18 wraps up Friday, but until then, the group continues to improve the trail system for the county’s users. According to the county’s Open Space Specialist Craig Martin the group put in about 5,000 work hours this summer. The program began in June.


The group has worked on projects in Bayo Canyon, Pueblo Canyon and also did some work on the Mitchell Trail. Some of the Bayo Canyon work included fixing the trail. “It was a rough, scratched-in trail,” Martin said. “Now it’s almost perfect. People can use the trail and it still stays a fire line.”


The Mitchell Trail work consisted of fixing the middle portion of the trail that had not been adequately fixed following the Cerro Grande fire. “That’s (the work on the Mitchell Trail) attracted the most attention. Everyone who’s used it said it’s great,” Martin commented.


YMCA Adventure Director Sierra Argo was also directly involved with the YCC during the summer. Argo, along with YCC Crew Leader Lahni Zollinger, helped direct the youth and teach them the proper way to use tools and clear trails. In addition, they taught the workers how to ensure their own and each other’s safety.


Martin said that during the hail storm last month, he was worried about the workers because they were out on the trails. However, Argo and Zollinger took the reins and made sure all the workers got to the vans quickly and were on their way back to safety.


The youth groups worked hard and it shows. “We’ve been getting rave reviews from county members,” Argo said. The YCC group also seems to have gained popularity. “We’re already getting calls from those who want to join next year,” she said.


Zollinger said there were no problems with the group getting along. “The crew works great together. They turned out better than I thought they would.”


The consensus among the crew seemed to be the same. The majority of workers applied for the YCC program because they were looking for something to do during the summer. Steven Romero from Pojoaque said this was his first time on a YCC crew. ‘I like working outside and working with people. It’s good experience,” he said of his decision to work with the YCC.


Matthew Herrera of Española said he applied with the YCC because he was looking for a job. “I like working outside,” he said.


However, some of the YCC members have a little bit of experience under their belts. Nathan Clements of Los Alamos has worked on trails before, in fact he spent three years doing work for the YES Corps, which is run by the YMCA. “I like getting out of the house. This year was pretty good. We got more done than we had in the past three years. We had better people and more incentive,” he said.


Ian Zollinger of Los Alamos also had an edge when he took the job. Zollinger had previously worked at a Boy Scout camp. “I had some trail work experience,” he commented. He also said that his experience helped him quickly pick up the knowledge necessary to do YCC work.


Not everyone set out to join the YCC, however. Austin Martz of Los Alamos got the job by chance. “I turned in an application for childcare, but there were no openings. Sierra got my application and called to ask if I’d be interested in the YCC,” Martz said. And though it wasn’t his first choice, he said he’s enjoyed working with the YCC.


Argo said overall, she’s pleased with the work the group accomplished. “It’s impressive what they can do in a short amount of time. It’s really exciting,” Argo said. “We just turned in the grant (for next year) and I’ve got my fingers crossed for a successful year to come,” she said.