Forest Service youth corps does 'really hard, fun work'

The crew had something to show for it when Oregon Youth Conservation Corps workers hung up their hardhats Friday and bid farewell to a summer spent in the Mt. Hood National Forest.

It wasn't just thicker muscles and wallets, either -- the group of Hood River teenagers had made lasting improvements and additions to forest land during eight weeks of labor.

On Thursday they were finishing up work on a buck and pole fence at three-acre Middle Prairie Meadow, located about 12 miles off Highway 35 in the northeast corner of the Hood River Ranger District.

The crew built the fence to keep cattle from grazing in the meadow, said David Gross, the senior/youth/volunteer program manager with the Ranger District.

"We'd like to keep the cattle out of the meadow -- it gets wet in the spring and provides a habitat for various birds and animals," Gross explained. "It's designed to protect the meadow and keep wildlife intact."

Eight Hood River teens did the work under the supervision of crew leader Keith Obilana of Odell.

"They're a good crew, and hard workers for the most part," said Obilana. "They're fun to be around, and get the job done. I'm pretty impressed with them."

Even though the task was tiring, workers were upbeat.

"I just like going out in the forest -- it's interesting," said Carlos Marquez.

"It's really, really hard work, but at the same time it's fun -- that's weird," said Mychal Quintanilla.

Earlier this summer, the youths brushed fences, roads and roadsides at sites including Lost Lake campground, pruned trees, and cleared brush.

"My favorite was repairing the Elliot crossing on the Timberline trail," said Megan Kaufman. "There was a big flood that washed out the bridge, and we replaced it with a stone crossing."

The floods provided the crew with jobs elsewhere.

"Robin Hood campground was flooded, and we had to dig up picnic benches buried in the sand and carry them to Nottingham campground," said Julian Helt.

"Kids love the sense of accomplishment," Gross said. "They can stand back at the end of the day and see the result of their work."

There were intangible products of their labors, too.

"For a lot of kids this is their first work experience," Gross said. "We teach them skills they need, like conflict resolution, and basic things like showing up to work on time and calling in when you're not going to be there. We tell them, 'This is a real job, folks -- it's not pretend'."

The Conservation Corps workers gather at 8 a.m. and carpool to their work site, where they labor until about 4:30 p.m. and then return home. They work 40 hours a week and receive minimum wage.

Gross outlined three objectives that the YCC tries to fulfill -- to provide a meaningful work experience for kids ages 15-18 from all backgrounds, to accomplish conservation work on public lands, and to teach people something about natural resource and their management.

"Students receive one hour a day of hands-on education, where they learn what to do and why, and about the Forest Service," said Gross, who noted that students can also receive school credit for their participation. "It's a double whammy -- you get money and school credit.

"In the early days, the Youth Conservation Corps was funded by Congress," Gross continued. "Then the funding went away, but they told us to keep doing the program. Now we're funded by the Forest Service and community partners like the Oregon YCC in Salem, Trust Management Services, the Hood River County Juvenile Department, and the Mid-Columbia Council of Governments. Without them we wouldn't be able to do this program."

Typically, Gross receives two to three applications per YCC position. He divides the applicants into male and female pools, then draws names out of each hat to determine which teens to call first. Most only receive one crack at the job -- after they've spent a summer working for the YCC, teens receive the lowest priority the next time around in order to give others a chance.

YCC students capped off their summer with a day at Timberline Lodge, complete with an awards ceremony, fun activities, and of course, a little work, too.

"I see a lot of value to a program like this in a small, rural community," said Gross. "It's an appealing -- and different -- summer experience."

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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