Blog – Blogspot

Featured Project

Viewing posts tagged Featured Project

Congaree National Park

We recently posted about our ACE Southeast crew that were busy clearing 14 miles of the popular Cedar Creek Canoe Trail in Congaree National Park. We’re delighted to announce that due to the hard work of corps members the crew completed Phase I of the project after just 6 weeks.


As a result, the crew found themselves back on land, assisting NPS staff with maintenance of the park’s 30+ miles of trails. The first task was to remove unwanted vegetation from campgrounds and roads with hand tools and brush cutters.


Next up, the crew tackled a huge fallen log that was blocking a hiking trail. Here they used the grip hoist and crosscut saw to remove the obstruction.


Field Operations Manager Josh Burt explained some of the differences of working in the East, compared to ACE’s desert heartlands: “Working in the East has positive and negative aspects. From an invasive species management perspective, there is a lot of work to do, a lot to combat. But, in doing trail work, we have some advantages…For example, we’re removing this log from the trail by dragging it over the land. In this environment the marks made by this movement will soon be unnoticeable, whereas wouldn’t do that in the deserts of Arizona; the marks on the landscape would last for many years. So although some challenges are much greater there are more options available for how to deal with them.”

The ACE Southeast crew will continue to assist NPS staff and will return to work on Cedar Creek in the weeks to come.

ACE Southeast – Alum Cave Trail Restoration

Earlier in the month we spent some time with ACE Southeast in North Carolina where we visited 3 ongoing projects. Over the coming weeks we will share photos and stories from these projects. First up is the Alum Cave Trail, a popular hiking trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, that is currently subject of a restoration project.

Views from the Alum Cave Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Views from the Alum Cave Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Alum Cave Trail is a popular trail hiking trail within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail features breathtaking views, a variety of flora and fauna, and its namesake Alum Cave, which isn’t actually a cave but a concave bluff that rises about 80 feet high. The trail leads to other iconic areas including Arch Rock, Inspiration Point, and Mt. Le Conte. However, in several narrow areas erosion and landslides have damaged sections of the trail, making it difficult to safely travel through the areas during inclement weather or to pass hikers coming from the opposite direction. By restoring these fragile trail sections, the long-term sustainability and safety of the trail can be ensured. ACE, alongside the NPS Trails Forever Crew, are working on this restoration project. Recently we have had two ACE Southeast crews were out working at separate locations of the trail.

ACE Crews working alongside the NPS

ACE Crews working alongside the NPS

The first of these crews was assisting NPS staff in building a stone staircase. Crew members moved rocks with a grip hoist, and split them into usable sizes with rock drills and doublejacks. They also utilized masonry techniques to shape the rocks.

Alum Cave Trail, Great Smoky Mountains NP - Rock Splitting

The second crew was working farther up the trail on a major trail reconstruction project that involved moving lots of dirt, re-grading the tread, and removing roots and rocks.

Alum Cave Trail, Great Smoky Mountains NP - Drilling

The environment in North Carolina is unique when compared to the other locations in ACE’s Intermountain Region, which lie in the Southwest. “We’re working in a temperate rainforest, which is very different from most of the locations that other ACE crews work in which tend to be desert environments,” said corps member Madison McClaren. The Alum Cave Trail is lined with rhododendron and hemlock, and fog was a prominent feature. “This particular project is cool because it’s such a heavily used trail. After we finish, a thousand people will step over our work every weekend,” said McClaren. “That makes the work much more gratifying.” added fellow corps member Chelsie Stetcher.

This is the first year of a 2 year reconstruction plan of the Alum Cave Trail that ACE crews will continue to participate in.

ACE Crews at Picture Canyon, Flagstaff

This past week ACE Arizona crews headed back out to Picture Canyon in Flagstaff with a focus on invasive removal and restoration work. Specifically, the crew were treating and removing Scotch thistle (Onopordum acanthium) and Russian/Diffuse knapweed (Centaurea diffusa).

Knapweeds are invasive plants which can impair wildlife habitats by reducing forage, decreasing native plant diversity, and increasing the potential of soil erosion. Scotch thistle is known to invade disturbed areas near roadsides, riparian banks, heavily grazed pastures, and burned areas. Its grows in dense stands which can outcompete native plants and create monocultures. This is common behavior of invasive plants in general.


In riparian areas like Picture Canyon, dense thistle stands can grown into a physical barriers. To help mitigate these effects, a majority of the work involved corps members clipping the flower heads from the Scotch Thistle and spraying the plant, and hand pulling the knapweeds. The crew treated several areas along the Rio de Flag in this manner.


Picture Canyon Preserve a is located just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, along the Rio de Flag. Picture Canyon is so called because of the hundreds of petroglyphs, pictographs and other archaeological remains of the Northern Sinagua that were discovered in the area. The Arizona Trail runs through this area, and attracts those interesting in recreational activities such as hiking, mountain biking, equestrian, photography, wildlife watching. Picture Canyon is also a great place to witness the changing of the leaves during fall.

Canoe Trail Restoration, Congaree National Park

News of a very unique and interesting project from ACE Southeast. Crews there are actively involved in the restoration of over 14 miles of popular canoe trails in Congaree National Park, near Hopkins, South Carolina.


That’s right, canoe trails. ACE has become somewhat synonymous with trail building and trail maintenance in the deserts of the Southwest, but this is a first, conducting canoe trail maintenance. As we geographically expand so does the scope of our expertise.

ACE corps members suited up for canoe trail restoration

ACE corps members suited up for canoe trail restoration

The ACE crew, led by its fearless leader Isabel Grattan, is using primitive hand tools to clear the popular Cedar Creek Canoe Trail that travels through the heart of Congaree National Park. Cedar Creek is a major part of the dynamic floodplain wilderness area of the park and passes through a primeval old-growth forest which contains some of the tallest trees in eastern North America. The marked trail winds approximately 15 miles through the Congaree Wilderness, starting at Bannister’s Bridge and going all the way to the Congaree River.


Downed trees and log jams are a common occurrence on Cedar Creek. The ACE corps members paddle 2-4 miles a day in their two-person canoes and use cross-cut saws, hand saws, and loppers to clear away large trees and debris that have fallen over the creek during the previous late summer and winter storms. This work is vital in improving the conditions for park visitors who would otherwise need to portage around these obstacles.


Congaree National Park was established in 2003 and is home to many champion trees (largest of their species) and a wide variety of reptiles, amphibians, as well as fish-eating spiders. Paddling the Cedar Creek trail is arguably the best way to experience the Park.

Views from the canoe

Views from the canoe

Hazard Tree Removal in Los Alamos, NM

A crew of 5 ACE sawyers just returned from a project removing 2 miles of hazard tress which posed a risk to ski trails around the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area in New Mexico. This area had been affected by the 2011 Las Conchas Fire which burned 150,000 acres and threatened the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the nearby town of Los Alamos. After five days of burning it became the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history, although this record was broken in 2012 and the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire.


So what makes a tree a ‘hazard tree’? The US Forest Service describes a hazard tree as ‘…a tree with structural defects likely to cause failure of all or part of the tree…” Effectively, hazard trees are dead but remain standing. They pose a danger to the public as they can fall without warning. It is therefore important to remove them from the vicinity of the trail, or ski run, to ensure the safety of the public.


ACE sawyers are selected for Hazard Tree Felling based upon several criteria: Positive feedback from project partners and ACE Crew Leaders, demonstrating that they are interested and capable of progressing their saw skills, and, most importantly, having ample experience with the saw so that they can complete hazard tree cutting techniques safely and efficiently.


The hazard tree training includes a review of different tree species that they may find, tree fiber structures and their effects on the felling of a tree, how to size up a complex tree, advanced cutting techniques and cuts, cut selection, and advanced wedging techniques. It’s also important the sawyers know a ‘walk away situation’ – a tree that cannot be safely felled at that time.


At the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area the ACE sawyers felled a total of 109 hazard trees over 9 days, helping to secure the area in advance of the 2015 ski season.

Hazard Tree Crew

Hazard Tree Crew

Mesa Verde Crew

Today we welcome back a crew returning from Mesa Verde National Park in Southwest Colorado who for the past week the crew has focused on eliminating the highly invasive species Russian Knapweed from along the Mancos River within the park.

The Mesa Verde crew

The Mesa Verde crew

On the first day of the hitch, however, the river was swollen with monsoon rains. Since it was therefore unsafe to work by the river the crew worked with NPS staff to eradicate invasive musk thistle in a different location in the park.

Removing Musk Thistle

Removing Musk Thistle

Corps members removed the blooms from the musk thistle plants by either pulling them by hand or snipping with pruners. They cut the stalks to waist level height so other corps members came through and sprayed the stalks with Milestone herbicide to prevent the regrowth of the invasive.

Pruning the musk thistle

Pruning the musk thistle

The musk thistle can spread extremely rapidly because of the high seed production–almost 120,000 per plant!

Spraying the musk thistle

Spraying the musk thistle

Ecological restoration is something ACE corps members dedicate themselves to during their term of service. Part of restoring a native plant community to its original state is the removal of invasive, destructive species followed by the planting of native species.

The fruits of labor

The fruits of labor

Meet an ACE Intern

Meet Cristobal Castaneda, Youth Programs Assistant Intern at John Muir National Historic Site

Cristobal Castaneda is an incredible ACE intern at the John Muir National Historic Site in the San Francisco Bay Area. He first began as a youth volunteer for John Muir National Historic Site before starting as the ACE Youth Program Assistant Intern in January 2015. While gathering and cataloging phenology data, supporting high school volunteers with the New Leaf Program, and reaching out to the public, he plays an instrumental role at the site.

Cristobal Castaneda

Part of his role includes working with under-represented teenage groups in order to promote jobs working with public lands, and whilst undertaking this he has demonstrated his amazing skillset. To date Cristobal’s projects have included leading tours, conducting interviews with park guests, working directly with youth volunteers, managing restoration teams, and advocating for National Parks.

Cristobal is a stellar example of how passion and dedication to the ACE and National Park Service mission contributes to personal success, professional development, and a really good time!

The Youth Conservation Corps

ACE Arizona is currently hosting Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crews out of its Flagstaff office. YCC is a summer employment program for young adults aged 15 to 18. The program encourages youth from all backgrounds to work and learn together by completing projects to help protect public lands. The program provides youth the opportunity to work alongside government employees with the National Park Service and the Forest Service.

YCC training

YCC training

An ACE crew leader supervises and motivates the YCC group throughout the project. This past week we had two different groups of YCC volunteers – one was working in Navajo National Monument just south of the Utah border, and the other at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument in Flagstaff.

YCC @ Sunset Crater

YCC @ Sunset Crater

The crew at Navajo National monument was doing a variety of work to assist Park Service employees, including building picnic tables and maintaining a popular, scenic trail in a backcountry area of the park. “It’s been a lot of fun working with these guys because they work really hard and each bring something different and positive to the group” explained crew leader Allie Devor while helping her crew to clean drains along the Keet Seel trail in Navajo National Monument. The crew is made up of local high school students who all live outside the monument on the Navajo Reservation. “I learn something new every day from this group, from hearing about their culture to problem solving about work on a project” she said.

YCC crew at work @Navajo National Monument

YCC crew at work @Navajo National Monument

The second YCC crew was maintaining a new trail in Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and also assisting Park Service employees with a high line rigging system in Walnut Canyon National Monument. Both teens in the crew had worked for YCC in the summer of 2014 and returned again this year. “I wanted to do YCC again because I really like this kind of work. It gets me out of the house,” laughed Tori Cibitello, while taking a break from repairing the out slope of the new trail in Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. “It’s cool to make something that lasts—I can come back in the future and say, “I did this!”

YCC Crew working @Sunset Crater National Monument

YCC Crew working @Sunset Crater National Monument

The YCC program is imperative for several reasons; it helps to involve kids in meaningful, engaging conservation projects that benefit their community as well as the environment, and it gives young adults the chance to start building their work experience to prepare for a job in the future.

ACE Crews @ Grand Canyon National Park

Every year, ACE crews have the privilege to work in arguably one of the most beautiful National Parks in the country—the Grand Canyon. ACE’s summer work season always begins with work on the north rim of the canyon, and once complete, crews move to the south rim.

Grand Canyon Blog Post -03

They perform routine maintenance including cleaning water bars and check steps, re-dirting the trail where necessary, and clearing out irrigation ditches. They focus on the three main historic corridor trails: North and South Kaibab, and Bright Angel.

Grand Canyon Blog Post Before After

These trails are the most popular in the park, and have a very high volume of pedestrian and mule traffic. “Trails at the Grand Canyon are so different,” explained crew leader Evan Thibodeau. “The trails drainages are on the inslope, which is opposite of most trails. The work we are doing is an effort to help prevent erosion from the outside of the trail.”

Grand Canyon Blog Post -02

The work that ACE crews do in Grand Canyon National Park is imperative to prepare the trails for the onslaught of traffic and monsoon rains that they will sustain this summer.

Grand Canyon Blog Post -01

ACE receives American Trails Award!

We are proud to announce that ACE and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) have received the American Trails Partnership Award (Level One) at The International Trails Symposium which was held in Portland, Oregon on May 19-22.

ACE - LTBMU Partnership Award

ACE – LTBMU Partnership Award

The American Trails Partnership Level One award is granted to a partnership which benefits agencies or services within the field of trail planning, design, or implementation. ACE and LTBMU of the US Forest Service have partnered on projects since 2009. Most recently ACE and LTBMU partnered worked closely together on the Eagle Falls Trail Reconstruction Project, a 2.5 mile sustainable multi-use trail. This project alone has provided more than 50 young adults with valuable trail-building and conservation experience.


American Trails National Award Seal

The American Trails Awards Program aims to recognize the tremendous contributions of volunteers, professionals, and other leaders who are working for the betterment of trails both nationally and internationally and in both rural and urban settings.

A big thank you to our staff and corps members who worked on this project, and to our fellow award winners and partner Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. Click here to read the full press release of the American Trail Awards.for a full description of the award and the ACE-LTBMU partnership visit the 2015 Partnership Award – Level 1 page on

ACE In The News

ACE features in the Prescott Daily Courier as construction of the final section of the Prescott Circle Trail is now under way. ACE Arizona Director Matt Roberts has been extensively involved in the project, along with corps members based out of our Flagstaff office.

Thanks to everyone at ACE who has contributed to the project, and to the City of Prescott, the Yavapai Trails Association.

Read the full story in the Prescott Daily Courier.

ACE in The Corps Network Crew Leader

The latest edition of The Corps Network Crew Leader features an interview with Michael Muckle, the Director of the New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg. In the interview Michael talks about his excitement about developing a partnership with ACE, in particular putting ‘Waders In The Water’ trained corps members to work in New Jersey. The nationally recognized Waders in the Water training provides corps members with the skills and capacity to professionally complete aquatic restoration projects while preparing them for careers in the private restoration industry. Trout Headwaters Inc provides ACE Corps Members with the ‘Waders in the Water’ training that is instrumental to the project.

We at ACE are also very excited to be a part of this partnership, and to work alongside the corps members of the New Jersey Youth Corps. ACE and New Jersey Youth Corps are currently working side by side on the Mullica River headlands restoration project in New Jersey, planting native plant species.

Sunrise along the Mullica River

Sunrise along the Mullica River

For the full article please visit The Corps Network Crew Leader, or The Corps Network’s website.

Featured Project – Mullica River Restoration, New Jersey

ACE is currently at work in the state of New Jersey, restoring a wetland area along the Mullica River. The project is a collaboration of for-profit and non-profit organizations: GreenVest LLC is the sponsor and experienced leader in ecosystem restoration projects; Trout Headwaters Inc is a Montana-based industry leader in sustainable stream, wetland, and habitat restoration; and the New Jersey Youth Corps, a ‘second-chance’ program which offers youth aged between 16-25 the opportunity to both earn a high school-equivalent qualification, and gain work skills, through meaningful community service.

ACE AZ Director Jordan Rolfe, ACE Southeast Director Adam Scherm, and ACE volunteer Bhriana Malcolm complete an 'H' brace

ACE AZ Director Jordan Rolfe, ACE Southeast Director Adam Scherm, and ACE volunteer Bhriana Malcolm complete an ‘H’ brace

ACE is working with GreenVest to install over 4,000 ft of perimeter fencing to protect future plantings in a restored wetlands area at the headwaters of the Mullica River, in the heart of the Pinelands of southern New Jersey, just west of Wharton State Forest. On March 19, the crew will complete the perimeter fence which stands 8 feet tall, which will prevent deer from eating future plantings, and restrict the access of UTV traffic that would otherwise disturb the area.

The ACE Crew secure the fence to the posts.  ACE is installing 4,000ft of perimeter fence in the Murrica River headlands.

The ACE Crew secure the fence to the posts. ACE is installing 4,000ft of perimeter fence in the Murrica River headlands.

Trout Headwaters was instrumental to this project by providing ACE Corps Members with ‘Waders in the Water’ training. The nationally recognized Waders in the Water training provides corps members with the skills and capacity to professionally complete acquatic restoration projects while preparing them for careers in the private restoration industry.

In April, after the perimeter fencing is complete, ACE crews will work alongside youth from the New Jersey Youth Corps to plant native species in and around the wetlands. After 5 years, the fencing will be removed and the restored wetlands habitat will be a thriving ecosystem.