Corps Story: Small Crew with Big Outcomes at Valley Forge

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.  

With hard work and the right skills, a small crew can make a big difference.

From September through October, a four-person Roving Conservation Corps crew from Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) conducted maintenance on the Mount Joy and Mount Misery trail systems at Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania. A trail crew would normally be larger, but the small team promoted COVID-19 safety precautions and helped guard against project delays due to potential illness. The Corpsmembers lived together in an apartment near the park.

It had been some time since the trails received intensive maintenance, but certain projects could no longer wait. A large storm hit the park in June, bringing several inches of rain over a 24-hour period. The storm caused erosion and took down trees throughout the trail system.

 

Working on erosion control, trail stabilization.

 

In total, the AMC crew cleared 10 blowdowns and installed numerous erosion-control features. This included two retaining walls, 70 square-feet of log crib, 23 check steps, 140 feet of side ditches, and 170 feet of wood water bars. They also maintained 70 feet of trail irrigation drainage and grading, and hauled in two cubic yards of dirt to reshape 600 feet of tread.

A highlight of the crew’s season was constructing a 20-foot-long, 5-foot-wide bridge to cross over a historic, stone-paved drain. AMC surveyed the area and designed the bridge, which included railings and steps. The crew carried in the wood and other construction supplies, building the bridge in an area distant from any roads.

 

Crew photo with the bridge they constructed.

 

The AMC Corpsmembers came into the project with the skills and experience to complete the work independently, without rigorous oversight or training from park staff. This was important to the projects’ success, as staffing changes and promoting COVID-19 safety precautions limited the ability of park staff to interact with the crew as frequently as they might have otherwise.

The AMC crew was small, but their work made a noticeable difference. In the month of October alone, the crew constructed a trail staircase, installed five water bars and more than a dozen check steps, and completed 300 feet of trail construction and 200 feet of tread work.

 

 

There are plans to bring another AMC crew back to Valley Forge in 2021 to conduct additional maintenance. Work for next year could include installing retaining walls and check steps, trail maintenance, and construction of a steel beam bridge.

“In hindsight, this season has taught me more than any other season of trail building,” said Ellie Pelletier, Roving Conservation Corps Supervisor at AMC. “I learned to be patient with circumstances and with other people as you never know what they’re going through. I learned that in addition to having a Plan A, it might be good to have plans B through F on standby, just in case. I learned that people can persevere, even in times of extreme difficulty. And I learned that sometimes, when all else fails, people turn to the great outdoors to walk, run, hike or bike their stresses away.”