Thursday, December 5, 2013
On day one, the group of six strangers ate its first team meal in relative silence.
Krista Rogers of West Bath stands beside the stump of the first tree she ever felled using a chain saw. The work is being done as part of a 10-week Trail Training Academy that Rogers is attending.
By week two, the crew began building bridges across wooded trails, and personal relationships.
As the weeks progressed, the team drew on its wits and some brawn to move boulders and heavy objects from pathways using an ingenious winching system and confidently wielded chain saws to fell trees and clear brush from forested corridors.
This is Trail Training Academy, a 10-week leader-building program that teaches how to oversee trail repair and conservation work.
In the midst of the action is Krista Rogers, 23, of West Bath. She is more than halfway the academy sponsored by the Maine Conservation Corps, a branch of AmeriCorps Volunteers. A grant secures living expenses and a stipend for Rogers and the crew who have been staying at Camp Mechuwana in Winthrop since Feb. 22. The program ends April 30 with those completing the course being offered a position to lead their own team through similar projects this summer in Maine.
For Rogers, a 2004 graduate of North Yarmouth Academy and a 2008 geology and biology graduate of Mount Holyoke, this is the learning adventure of a lifetime. Rogers is the daughter of former state park manager Mick Rogers. She grew up at places like Lake St. George in Liberty and Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal. Following high school, Krista spent five summer working on state park projects for the Maine Department of Conservation. During those assignments, she met and observed Conservation Corps crews.
"I prefer to work on this aspect of (land) conservation, which is, basically, creating safer hiking trails for people to learn about the environment and experience it without damaging it further," said Krista.
The class hears from lecturers who detail various aspects of trail management, from clearing trails of brush and debris to building rock stair cases. Trainees repair trails that they can and reroute those they can't, always grooming the paths to wick away rainfall that may cause erosion.
The work can be physically demanding, with crews working eight-hours days, five days per week.
Last week, the crew participated in wilderness first aid training -- a 72-hour first responder course addressing emergency medical issues that could arise in the remote locales. The class covers everything from hiking blisters and traumatic fall injuries to treating snake bites, splinting broken legs and applying a tourniquet to deep cuts.
Trail instructor Erin Amadon, 29, said that grooming competent future leaders for the program is as important as grooming trails.
"They will be in a leadership role, working in a diverse group of people and we want them to be able to manage any issues that arise," said Amadon. "We take six individuals from all over the country who have relevant work experience and aspirations that are similar to our goals. Krista scored high among applicants for her experience in the state park system. She has been involved in that from a young age and her commitment to the work showed through on her application and in her interview."
Team members take turns acting as assistant camp director for one week. The role includes addressing community concerns and conflict resolution within the group, planning team meals, contacting and providing logistical support for guest speakers and offering a short teaching on a related topic.
Krista led the team last week, earning praise from Amadon for her energy and positive and supportive demeanor among her fellow crew members.
"The biggest challenge is making one team from a diverse group of people from many different backgrounds and making them see common ground" said Krista. "It's been a wonderful opportunity. I'm learning so much and can't wait share it with others. It's been the experience of a lifetime."
If Krista successfully completes the training, she'll be offered a team leader role this summer. The position also will allow her to network with different agencies, such as land trusts, state park officials and non-profit groupss and glimpse roles that may be of interest for her. She'll also receive additional AmeriCorps funding to be used for paying off student loans, purchasing study materials or pursing further education opportunities.
Staff Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at: