All In a Day’s Work…

Conservation group rebuilds bridge up Columbine Canyon

Staff from the Southwest Conservation Corps take a break from the back-breaking work of building a bridge by hand in the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness. Left to right: Trevor Foote of Kansas City, Missouri, Bri Lucarelli of Deep River, Connecticut, Lucas Potter of Bozrah, Connecticut, Anthony Ondrus of Akron, Ohio, Zoe Briggs of Portland, Oregon, Colleen Casey of Richmond, Virginia, Jack McDonald of St. Louis, Missouri, and Arthur Sprunger of Palmdale, California (not pictured: Rebecca Pike of Pagosa Springs, Colorado). (Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)

A bit less than 2 miles from the Columbine Canyon Trailhead a group of young people are 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, they 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 (SCC) has a Tuesday afternoon deadline: They 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, based in Southern Colorado, offer young adults ages 18 -25 to “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 group’s program requires them 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.”

(Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
(Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
Rebecca Pike of Pagosa Springs (left), is a Crew Leader for the group. (Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
Zoe Briggs hews the giant log into a flat surface.(Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
Trevor Foote hauls one of hundreds of rock used to shore up the approach to the bridge. (Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
Jack McDonald and Arthur Sprunger (Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
Lucas Potter and Anthony Ondrus are not intimated by THIS rock! (Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
(Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
(Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
Boards for the bridge’s railing (Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
(Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
Colleen Casey takes a much-needed break. (Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
Lucas Potter heads to the tool cache for a large, vintage, two-person, cross-cut saw. (Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
According to Lucas, this saw dates back to the 19050s. (Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
Zoe and Lucas saw the old-fashioned way. (Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
Home, sweet home (Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
(Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
(Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
The kitchen and group lounge (Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)

Food hangs several hundred yards from camp. (Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)
A grouse hikes a bit before alighting to a tree near the work crew’s camp. (Chronicle photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)

Information about the Southwest Conservation Corps: sccorps.org