Corps Story: Mile High Youth Corps Navigates COVID-19 Protocols to Complete Work at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

More than 20 Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) AmeriCorps members have participated in maintenance and improvement projects at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument this year

This story features a Corps using The Corps Network’s National Cooperative Agreement with the National Park Service. Learn more about how this agreement provides Accredited Corps across the country the opportunity to partner with the National Park Service to engage young people in maintaining some of our country’s most treasured natural and cultural resources.   

Through the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, many of us have turned to parks and trails as safe spaces to exercise and relax. More than ever, we can appreciate the importance of well-maintained recreation areas.

We would argue that, among the everyday heroes of 2020, are the people who keep our outdoor spaces accessible. This includes more than 20 AmeriCorps members from Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) who served at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument this year.

 

Trail widening

 

MHYC is partnering with Florissant Fossil Beds through The Corps Network’s National Cooperative Agreement with the National Park Service. The Corps was brought in to assist the park with trail construction and maintenance, rock work, installing drainage systems, and improving various park facilities.

From June through October, the MHYC AmeriCorps members – who dubbed their cohort the Challenger Crew – completed three miles of trail construction and maintenance, installed more than 30 steps and 12 new trail signs, and completed extensive work to improve trail drainage. They also conducted fire mitigation work and constructed roughly 300 feet of rock retaining walls.

 

Installing timber steps at the picnic area

 

All through this work, Corpsmembers and staff practiced comprehensive safety measures to limit coronavirus exposure and spread. Trainings were held virtually whenever possible. Crews were staggered to prevent cross-crew contamination. Health screens became part of the morning routine. New protocols surrounding transportation, camping, meals, personal hygiene, and project work were developed and updated throughout the summer and fall seasons.

In addition to serving through COVID-19 concerns, Corpsmembers also faced environmental hazards, such as an historic snowstorm and smoky conditions caused by the worst wildland fire season in Colorado’s recorded history.

 

Job well done: Corpsmembers enjoying the newly constructed picnic area

 

At the beginning of the summer season, the Challenger Crew worked on the Shootin’ Star Trail, widening the tread to accommodate two-way traffic, an important safety measure during COVID-19.

The Challenger Crew also entirely remodeled a large picnic area near the visitor center, installing anti-erosion features, lining the path with rock, and redefining the tread with tamped-down gravel. Later in the season, they improved the Hornbek Wildlife Trail, installing weed control mats and constructing timber stairs and drainage structures.

 

Rock work

 

Though this was a “challenging” season for the Challenger Crew, the Corps adapted and still managed to complete critical maintenance and improvement projects at a park that sees tens of thousands of visitors every year. In addition to the project accomplishments, several of the Corpsmembers who participated in these projects are on track to earn Public Lands Corps (PLC) hiring certificates. Granted to Corpsmembers who serve a minimum of 640 hours on public lands, including 120 hours on federal lands, the PLC hiring authority gives Corps alums a significant advantage when applying to federal jobs. We wish the crew the best of luck.

“Overall, MHYC is proud of how we have responded to the adversity this year has posed our program,” said Bella Bains, a Program Support Specialist at MHYC. “We feel that we have set an example for how to serve our community responsibly through this pandemic.”