By Jeff Senterman, Director of Catskill Conservation Corps
Since its launch in June, the Catskill Conservation Corps (CCC) has been hard at work bettering the outdoor experience in the Catskill Mountains. The CCC is a partnership between the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference (Trail Conference) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that provides volunteer opportunities to the public on projects that protect natural resources and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities in the Catskills while helping the DEC manage volunteers throughout the region by coordinating with all groups who engage in volunteer activities on state lands in the region.
Our CCC website and our presence on Facebook and Twitter were quickly established to help spread the word. (Six press releases have also been generated since June to promote the Corps.) The CCC’s first workshop focused on volunteer leadership training. Work trips tackled trail building at the future site of the Catskill Interpretive Center and litter cleanup at Kaaterskill Falls and along Route 23A in Kaaterskill Clove. An appreciation picnic was held for all Catskill volunteers in October; at the event, we were able to thank many people for their service to trails, lean-tos, and the natural and recreational resources of the Catskill Mountains.
The CCC continues to work very closely with the DEC to develop and prioritize future workshops and work trips to ensure a steady stream of opportunities and training for volunteers in the region. It is our hope that the CCC will be able to increase support of all volunteer activities on state lands in the Catskills, including the work of the Trail Conference and others, such as the Catskill Center’s Fire Tower Steward Program. The CCC provides an opportunity for all organizations who have a volunteer agreement with the DEC to promote their activities and inform the public about the many ways that volunteers support natural and recreational resources in the Catskill Mountains. In addition, the CCC can help other organizations who would like to launch a new volunteer opportunity get their programs up and running.
Since launching the Corps, we have heard from dozens of new volunteers through the CCC website and outreach events. These volunteers have participated in everything from trail crew work with the Trail Conference, to Fire Tower stewardship opportunities, to invasive species work. Even more people have asked to be kept up to date with what the CCC is doing in the Catskills.
Thanks to the contract with DEC that created the CCC, the Trail Conference has been able to expand its staff in the Catskills. The Trail Conference has hired a new Catskills Assistant Program Coordinator, Heather Rolland, whose job is to assist in the day-to-day operations of the CCC and better support the Trail Conference’s existing volunteers in the Catskills. In 2015 the Trail Conference and the CCC are looking forward to finding and moving into dedicated office space for our staff to further support the Trail Conference’s Catskills Community Trails Program and the CCC.
We have been working with a number of partners and other organizations to make the CCC a success. I was most recently on the local radio station WIOX during their Catskill Chronicle program discussing the CCC and reaching out to the public to get involved. If you have ideas for getting the word out about the CCC, please let us know!
If you’d like to learn more about the Catskill Conservation Corps and be contacted about volunteer opportunities and news throughout the Catskills, please visit catskillconservationcorps.org/volunteer and submit the form with your information. We will be in touch shortly afterwards with the info you request and will automatically add you to the mailing list for CCC updates. If you’d like to just be on the mailing list, check off the “general interest” option before you submit your interest form.
Some photos from our 2014 CCC events!