Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Sen. Lamar Alexander visit Conservation Corps Crew serving in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

On 101st birthday of the National Park Service, Secretary Zinke and Sen. Alexander visit AmeriCorps members with American Conservation Experience (ACE)

View full press release on the visit from the Department of the Interior.

View full press release on the visit from the office of Sen. Lamar Alexander.


WASHINGTON, DC – On Friday, August 25, 2017, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) visited a crew of AmeriCorps members serving with American Conservation Experience (ACE) on the Rainbow Falls Trail in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park. ACE, a national organization based in Flagstaff, AZ, is a member of The Corps Network and the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) initiative.

“These young guys and gals are our future park rangers and the work they are doing today will have lasting impacts for the next 100 years of the park,” said Secretary Zinke. “The design of the trail was really impressive, it’s no wonder why they are asked to do projects in other parks across the county.”

“We have a responsibility to address the growing maintenance needs in our national parks and on our public lands, so we must come up with innovative ways to fund the repairs to our park’s roads, bridges, trails and campgrounds,” said Sen. Alexander. “Secretary Zinke is exploring ways to do that – and I support his efforts.”

The 21CSC is a bold national initiative to annually engage 100,000 young adults and veterans in service on America’s public lands. The more than 200 official 21CSC member organizations currently engage tens of thousands of young people every year in completing quality, cost-effective maintenance and improvement projects in city parks and on public and tribal lands and waters across the country. The programs of the 21CSC help address the backlogged maintenance needs of land and water management agencies; enhance outdoor recreation opportunities; improve the accessibility of public lands; and respond to wildfires and other natural disasters.

Along with Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Tom Udall (D-NM), Sen. Alexander was an original co-sponsor of the bipartisan 21CSC Act (S.1403), introduced in June 2017. The bill was introduced in the House (H.R.2987) by Reps. Martha McSally (R-AZ), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Scott Tipton (R-CO), and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ). The 21CSC Act was previously introduced in the Senate in 2015 by Sens. McCain and Bennett, and in the House in 2016 by Reps. McSally and Moulton. As a U.S. Representative from Montana at the time, Secretary Zinke was a co-sponsor of the 2016 House bill.

The 21CSC Act would allow federal land and water management agencies – like the National Park Service –  to create formal, more flexible partnerships with 21CSC member organizations. It would also enable additional federal agencies to more easily partner with 21CSC organizations to accomplish their goals.

“On behalf of the more than 130 member organizations of The Corps Network, and more than 200 member organizations of the 21CSC, I thank Secretary Zinke and Senator Alexander for their support of 21CSC and for celebrating the 101st birthday of the National Park Service with a Conservation Corps,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, CEO of The Corps Network and Co-Chair of the Partnership for the 21CSC. “Through helping the park service improve this popular trail and expand access to outdoor recreation, the young adults serving with ACE are gaining valuable work experience and learning in-demand skills. Through public-private partnerships, like that between ACE and the park service, the 21CSC improves our public lands and helps develop America’s next generation of stewards and outdoor enthusiasts. These young adults are the caretakers who will ensure a successful second century for our parks. The 21CSC is a win-win.”

The Rainbow Falls Trail, on which the ACE Crew is serving, is one of the most popular trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Working alongside the National Park Service (NPS) Trails Forever crew, the ACE AmeriCorps members are focusing on efforts to prevent trail erosion and enhance user safety and enjoyment. Specifically, the ACE members are widening the tread in narrow places, excavating dips to improve drainage, out-sloping the tread to prevent erosion, and building steps in steeper areas to aid in soil containment and improve the user experience.

Corpsmembers use rigging systems to maneuver large rocks into place, split them using drills and chisels, then set them in place to provide long-lasting sustainable trail structures that will support high usage from the public.


About The Corps Network

The Corps Network, the national association of Service and Conservation Corps, provides leadership and support to over 130 Corps across the United States. Through advocacy, and providing Corps access to funding opportunities and expert guidance, The Corps Network annually enables more than 25,000 Corpsmembers to strengthen communities, improve the environment and transform their lives through service. To learn more about The Corps Network, please visit

Media Contact:

Hannah Traverse
The Corps Network
1275 K Street, NW – Suite 1050
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202.737.6272
Email: [email protected]