The Leader Team Program is a new SCA program model that is primarily focused on fulfilling SCA’s mission to create the next generation of conservation leaders. Successful completion of this program qualifies a member to serve as an SCA leader themselves, ideally immediately following the Leader Team Program.
Leader Team Members will first work as part of the leader team for three months in the spring in one location, then (if they graduate) either: take on the Project Leader position for a larger, “standard” team of Corps members for the three-month summer team in that location, or take on a leader position for another SCA program.
The project for this leader team is the Army Corps of Engineers Visitor Use Survey Program (ACE VUS). This is a two-year-old SCA partnership that provides members a valuable opportunity to help the Army Corps of Engineers monitor the use of its beautiful recreational sites across the country. Teams will: collect, organize and download interview data; use a schedule of randomly selected sample sites for specific dates; collaborate with SCA leader and ACE staff; maintain proper care of supplies and equipment; and much more. The team will also design and carry numerous conservation projects and community service projects, both at the sites they are monitoring and elsewhere in the local community. This gives the members an opportunity to interact with project staff, develop their leadership skills, and leave a lasting impact in their community.
The last two weeks couldn’t have been more eventful for the Atlanta crew. Their endeavors took them to lakes and mountains, creeks and climbing gyms, parking lots and the sides of highways. On sunny days and rainy ones, through dark thunder and intense heat, they surveyed, surveyed, and surveyed some more and met many a character along the way. It’s been a whirlwind, and a fun one at that.Surveys were the primary activity of the first week of the hitch. Sitting on the roadside, fashionably clad in fluorescent yellow vests and the freshest SCA gear around, the Atlanta crew chatted up the lake-visiting public with smiles, good humor, and, you guessed it, utter class. Many projects were undertaken in the moments between work; Michael perfected both the paint can woodstove and pop can alcohol stove after putting the finishing touches on his modified compost tumbler (patents pending). Leah broke ground on the Hillbilly Hilton’s backyard trail, the aptly named Punky Brewster, which is surely soon to be one of the most prestigious hikes in the world of trails. Clayton wrote a lot of wimpy poetry about the birds, trees, and flowers of North Georgia, while designing birdhouses to compliment the Punky Brewster.But rocking N. Georgia like a hurricane wasn’t enough for the ATL folks. Seeing a chance to diversify their portfolios of raditute on their days off, the ATL hauled up to Nashville, Tennessee for a country music fueled conservation project adventure. For a day they split ways, Michael riding off into the sunrise on his motorcycle, destined for the infamous Dragon’s Tail, Leah and Clayton heading off straight for the land of the Grand Ole Opry. The crew reveled in the company of Nashville’s finest folks, Sophie, Mike, and Eva, and exchanged stories of wild and wonderful survey periods of the past few weeks. This was no mere leisure trip though, folks. There was business to be done and that business was a day working in one of the gardens of the incredible Nashville Food Project. The crews painted their thumbs green for the day and set to planting arugala, spinach, fennel, and most importantly the cucumber garden, which they helped, from clearing the ground to planting. It was unsurprisingly a real good time and everybody in the crew left feeling smarter, prettier, and inspired by the awesome work of the NFP. Check them out, folks! They are cool beyond my ability to explain. After a tearful departure from their esteemed colleagues up north, the ATL crew headed back for the bread and the butter they had left behind…more surveys! Michael and Clayton diversified their worldviews a bit by switching survey schedules, Michael heading for the western reaches of the state at Carter’s Lake and Allatoona, Clayton moving closer to the homefront at Lake Lanier. A sadness was noticeable in the fearless leader, Leah Cantor, as she realized her days of surveying were coming to a close here in Georgia. She made her last few survey days count, and engaged the public with wit and jubilance! Don’t worry Leah, you’ll be surveying again in Kansas soon enough!At the Hilton, a call was heard from the North. The Great Smoky Mountains were summoning. There was trash needing picking up, and we were the folks to do it. Only two of our three could go – Michael, ever mindful of the call of the survey, graciously volunteered to stay behind so that Clayton and Leah could sally forth. He spent his time bettering a community near and dear to his heart, the climbing one, creating a brochure of helpful tips and resources for climbing safely and mitigating detrimental environmental impact. Leah and Clayton, aided by their allies Sophie and Mike V., took on the litter-strewn roadways entering Great Smoky Mountain National Park as a part of their annual Earth Week festivities. With tenacity characteristic of SCA members when faced with mass amounts of garbage, the combined teams combed through the roadside like a vigorous dog groomer, and came out with 5 heaping bags of trash and a few odd items. To the delight of the trash hounds, the SCAers won awards for most trash collected and weirdest item (a restaurant pager found by Sophie). The spoils of victory? Pizza and ice cream! The crew gave thanks for their feast and shared their bounty with fellow campers and AT through hikers, which gave back its own rewards, new friends, and potential co-workers. It could not have been a more fruitful experience. Reunited again at the Hilton, the team closed out the hitch with a few slow, stormy days. Michael and Clayton, surveying, got well acquainted with the spring showers of Georgia, which although miserable to sit through, brought the beauty of the hills and lakes into full bloom. Leah worked tirelessly on setting things up right for her crew in Kansas. Sunday, the first day of the hitch, the rain broke, a sunny welcome into the newest and final phase of the initial ATL crew adventure. Thanks for reading, Herbert the Deer Head.
Greetings from the Army Corps of Engineers, Visitor Use Survey team here in Cumming Georgia. We have been hard at work these past two weeks with our surveys and gaining all sorts of insight into the public use of Army Corps Of Engineers’ recreation sites. In our off time and conservation work days we have been even harder at work, getting involved with the local community and parks.
On my drive down to Georgia from New York I stopped by a beautiful site known at Tallulah Gorge. The sites at the gorge took my breath away, as did all of the amazing rock climbing and bouldering available. My only problem with being trained in trail construction is you can never hike a trail without seeing work to be done and I sure saw a lot of work that needed to be done on the climbing trail at Tallulah Gorge. After gaining insight from the park and local climbing community, I got to work on a previously abandoned trail. It was in desperate need of re-blazing and when following the trail I found in many places social trails had developed due to obstructions from years ago. With a great deal of care I re-opened the original trail, covered social trails. I also blazed the trail carefully, and made sure to keep a primitive back country look to this spectacular climbing site’s approach.
Clayton was hard at work this week with the American Chestnut Tree restoration project at Allatoona Lake. They are working hard to protect the trees from viscous predators like the infamous white tail deer. Ok, so not the most dangerous of beasts, but they can sure chomp down on young trees. So Clayton worked hard at putting up nets to protect the programs young trees and the future of the American Chestnut Tree as a species. In other updates the garden is growing nicely and both Michael and Clayton have had an easy week of maintenance due to good design there are no weeds to pluck and lots of rain has made for little watering to need to be done.
Leah has been hard at work as our program manager, Alex Olsen, visited our site for mid program evaluations. While getting Alex up to speed about everything we have been doing, she also managed to set up a great conservation work day we could all do together. On the Chattahoochee River two enormous trees fell on a hiking and mountain biking trail. We came on site armed with chainsaws and rigging equipment ready for action. To our surprise the trees were much bigger than expected and suspended by a stump 10 feet in the air. Talk about safety hazards, we had to pull out all the tricks to make a safe area of this trail and not jeopardize our own safety in the process. With some fancy chainsaw work courtesy of Clayton’s experience in the desert restoration corps, and some unique rigging courtesy of Michael’s leader team experience in Lake Tahoe we were able to help the park staff and SCA intern Justin and very knowledgeable volunteer Lynn, drop cut and move those trees off the trail in just one day. We thank Justin and Lynn for the opportunity to help the community and all of the skills we learned from them about tree removal and poison ivy control (some of us are still a little itchy despite best efforts though).
We look forward to our next conservation projects and more surveys as the weather continues to improve here in Georgia, the recreation is increasing as well. Hot, busy, and getting rained down on by pollen… we will send another update soon on our adventures with The SCA.
Through this program, my members and I will be using the surveys created by The Army Corps of Engineers to get the general feel of why the public uses local parks. My members will also spend part of their time during this program creating and implementing conservation projects of their choice in the greater Atlanta/Cumming area. I will support them in whatever ways I can by reviewing and approving their ideas, and then overall by helping them with the construction of their projects.
Each member will have access to an SCA vehicle, which they will use these to get to various program locations in which we will all carry out Visitor Use Surveys. We will perform routine checks on our vehicles to ensure they are in proper and safe working condition.
Goals will be accomplished by maintaining a line of professionalism, and only speaking with those who are willing and wanting to help us. We will try to involve the general public as much as we can with the conservation projects, since these are intended to benefit local people.
My members and I will share information and photos on this group blog so that others can see the work we are doing.
My main goal for my members as far as contacts go is to allow them to learn how to make connections with the agency contacts at our various parks. Different parks have different contacts, obviously, and different contacts mean all different kinds of personalities. It is important for my members to understand the proper way of speaking with and dealing with park contacts.
Throughout our time together, whether it is in general conservation or through our work we will talk about civic engagement and what it means to us as members in a society. We will also talk about Environmental Education and its importance with young people, ourselves, and even the older generations. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, you can still actively choose to be environmentally friendly, or not. We hope to teach others why it is important to spread knowledge and educate others on these topics.
The history of conservation is extremely interesting in my opinion. It is something that has been going on for a long time, and people are unaware of it’s rich history. Hopefully my members and I can touch on what we know about the conservation movement. We can talk about what it means to us, and how The SCA comes into play with this topic. We all know that The SCA was founded in 1957, right during the peak of many interesting things going on in our US History. The fact that The SCA was so welcomed by America during this time makes me personally proud to be part of such an incredible organization. As active members of The SCA, and conservationists, we will do what we can as we are working, and even during our personal time to ensure people understand the point of us being there. We will explain the reasoning behind my members work projects, in addition to having others help implement them. The same goes for the visitor use surveys. Knowledge + Education = POWER!
Keep checking in with us!!
Written by Leah Cantor
Completion of Hitch #1: Written by the glorious Clayton Buffer
Our second hitch has already come and gone. The Georgia crew has been busy! This hitch began with ACE/VUS training in Nashville. Sunday was our first day of ACE Survey Training. We watched several helpful instructional videos and learned the ins and outs of a visitor use survey, for instance the difference between a recreational and non-recreational visitor. We also became acquainted with some of our ACE contacts that are all most excellent people. Following our instructional training, which included a round of Jeopardy, we went and simulated the real thing. Needless to say, our crew had an immediate advantage to this game, being that one Nashville crew leader who will not be named had NEVER HEARD OF Jeopardy! Like a middle school dance, the boys and girls separated into groups. Each practiced setting up an ideal survey station in different areas in one of Nashville’s ACE parks. Following this highly educational experience, the boys and girls competed in a very spirited playground relay race, from which the boys emerged victorious by no small margin. The day concluded with a quiz over what we had learned in the morning and a scrumptious Mexican dinner, appetizers a la Army Corps. Those were some truly bomber chiles rellenos.
Our second and last day of training proved quite as stimulating as the first. There was some review of the previous days’ lessons and new, more nuanced information presented regarding visitor use surveys. The most valuable session of the day proved to be the 7 Station Cycle of Surveying, in which each fresh faced would-be surveyor was put through their paces, by Josh and Sophie, our veteran Leaders in site set up, Meredith, the Queen of Survey Protocol, or the Ranger collective, an acting troupe uniquely skilled in the art of verbal harassment. Needless to say, we all learned a lot. The day was capped off by a very special farewell dinner, with Alex, Meredith, and Ted in attendance. I think this the appropriate spot in this entry to thank the Nashville crew for their generosity, for sharing their home with us which took patience and a willingness to live without “personal space”, and a particularly big thanks to Sophie Louis for shopping, cooking every meal, and being an all-around champion. This was an emotional night – friendships were celebrated, as was the end of training, but our imminent separation cast an unhappy shadow in the Nashville house, if only briefly. Some “Anonymous Compliments”, a rousing game of Munchkin, and some intense hair braiding quickly rid the house of any sadness, and brought our time together to an altogether splendid close.
The Atlanta crew spent most of Tuesday in their now departed red VW Jetta, cruising the rolling hills of Tennessee and North Georgia. From Nashville we drove straight to Atlanta, where we picked up our rental cars and headed home. Upon our arrival, we realized there was still much work to be done at our lovely abode, which is how we spent our Wednesday. If there is a Goodwill in Northeast Georgia was not a beneficiary of our patronage, it must be a lame Goodwill. After loading up on furniture and necessities, the house was scoured; pounds of cat hair were vacuumed from the floor, years of dust were removed to uncover shiny mirrors and clear glassy surfaces. Most importantly, the pool table and hot tub were restored to working order. Party on, dudes. Party on.
The rest of the week was an ongoing exercise in meeting or hanging out with truly excellent people. Thursday and Friday, we journeyed all over North Georgia, beginning with Allatoona and Carter’s Lakes, and ending Friday with Lake Sidney Lanier. At each lake we met our agency contacts, some of the hippest cats in the Land of Peaches. They were full of energy, enthusiasm, ideas, and in the case of Mark Jennings, our contact at Lanier, college rivalry. (He’s a Florida Gator but we forgive him for that.. even though Leah was a Florida State Seminole) After meeting them and discussing our epic conservation project options and ideas, we returned home to find 2/3 of the Nashville crew at our house – it turns out we couldn’t last a week apart. We were also joined by SCA alum Stuart Wilkins, on his return trip from SCA Alternative spring break in Florida. Our final weekend before surveys was spent preparing to survey as no crew had surveyed before. ATL Mike jumped rope for several hours while talking non-stop, just to be sure he’d have the stamina for busy days at the park. When not intensely training for surveys, Nashville, Georgia, and Stuart jammed on guitars, played ridiculous games, honed their billiards skills, hot tubbed, and then cried because we missed our friends in that far off paradise called Waco, Texas. (Although we were lucky enough to grab a skype conversation with them!) On Sunday, Stuart and the Nashvillains returned to their distant homelands. And then there were three. Mike and Clayton found out about a farm festival in the nick of time. Not all who wander are lost, but these two were for about 30 minutes; eventually, they found the Gwinnet Environmental Health Center- a ridiculously cool environmental center in Gwinnet county. We were fortunate enough to get some great advice on their garden, as well as some excellent local seeds and plants to start it with. On Monday, the garden began to take shape, and the finishing touches were completed on Saturday the 30th. Our Georgia mansion now has a beautiful garden, complete with potatoes, onions, lettuce and spinach.
Tuesday the 26th was our first survey day. Rather, it was Clayton’s first survey day – Mike and Leah had the day off, which they used to accomplish great things. While Clayton was collecting survey data like a boy collects baseball cards – with ardor, diligence, and an insatiable need for more – Mike was setting up the coolest conservation project ever; trail rehabilitation at Tallulah Gorge for easier access to the parks’ unbelievable climbing spots. Leah was doing what she does best – being a BOSS! Wednesday, the whole crew did surveys, and did them the only way we know how, very well and with humility. Thursday the 28th was our first official Conservation Day, and the crew got conservative like the Tea Party talking about raising taxes. Mike made it a double, first travelling to the Chattahoochee River to help a fellow SCA intern with the relocation of a large sign, to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. After a couple hours of, in Mike’s words, “super easy”- bashing a rock bar into the ground, the work was complete and Mike moved on to Brenau University. Here he set up a booth at the internship fair, talked to students about summer internships, and basically made the SCA look, really, ridiculously good- which it is. Clayton embarked on a separate journey, straight out of Mary Shelley: to help bring back from the dead the American Chestnut. The American Chestnut project is taking place at Allatoona Lake under the watchful, nurturing eye of ACE Ranger Shea Sennett, the Dr. Frankenstein to Clayton’s Igor. He spent Thursday doing some serious weeding and preparation of the parks’ chestnut demonstration site, and returned Friday for the seasons’ first replanting. All in all, 3 seedling chestnut trees were planted, along with 7 sprouting seeds at the demo site.
The weekend was a special set of surveys – our fearless leader, Meredith came all the way from DC to help us improve our survey game. She visited Leah and Mike on Friday then Mike and Clayton on Saturday. Not even driving in the rain could deter us, and Meredith took advantage of any situation to teach us how to more finely hone our survey game. She even made it to our lovely mansion, where she taught us the art of Eastern North Carolina BBQ (that’s a VINEGAR-based sauce, y’all!), gave us helpful commentary on our work, and bestowed us with copious amounts of ice cream and candy. It was awesome hanging out.
Stay tuned for the haps of the next two weeks – it’s sure to be CRAZY. And thanks for reading!
Signing out with Love and Affection,
Herbert the Disembodied Deer Head, CEO and President, Georgia Manion LLC
As our training in Nashville came to an end, our crew headed back to Georgia eager and ready to begin the program!
The first thing we have to report from the field to you is Clayton and Michaels first Conservation project that they have already begun! Today these two gentleman headed out to Gwinnett Environmental Health Center where they attended "The Real Food Fair" from 1-5pm. Here they learned about how to take commercial gardening to a home level. This fair focused on growing local food, that was all-organic with absolutely no herbicides used! We were all very excited to say the least. We already have had a compost bucket going in our house to give us a kickstart. It takes about 90 days for our composted food to be usable in a garden, so we are hoping that when the new crew comes mid-may- it will be all set for them to use!
Today, Michael and Clayton returned from the fair very excited to get going on their project. The first thing they did was build a rain catch, since this house we are staying in does not have gutters. They figured this would be a good way to catch natural water and reuse it for the garden. A lot of people think going green is all about recycling, but we are here to tell you this is not true! Reduce, reuse, and recycle!!! This is the way to go, and these two guys are roaring and ready to practice this "green" method here in our own home!
Their plan for our home garden is to have two different types of grow. Since our acreage has a lot of shaded areas, and minimal sunny spots, they opted to do a half shaded garden, and a half mobile garden. The shaded garden will be immobile and they will be growing vegetables that do not need sun such as, red potatoes, red and white onions, red cardinal spinach, and yugoslavian lettuce. Then, in containers that can be moved with the sunlight they will grow vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers. Michael and Clayton opted for this method because they do not want to kill the vegetation that is already on our property- even if it isn't creating the optimal garden areas- they are willing and ready to work with it!
When these vegetables are grown and ready to eat, they have big plans! The first thing they want to do is donate a good bit of what they grow to a local food bank. Then, they plan on trying to trade our neighbors for other vegetables. The neighbors to the left of us are a lovely elderly couple- whose wife claims her husband knows NOTHING about gardening. (Don't you just love those couples that have clearly been together for YEARS. So cute.) They already told us they could use their help with their garden, and we plan on doing vegetable trades with them. We also have been looking around at farms that raise chickens to see if we can trade some vegetables for eggs. The rest of the vegetables we plan on eating ourselves!
That is all for now, and we will talk to you in two weeks with another exciting update as we enter our first week of visitor use surveys!!
- Leah, Clayton and Michael
Leah Cantor is the leader for this wonderful Georgia based crew. She is originally from New York and has a Bachelors Degree (BS) from Florida State University in Secondary English Education. (6th -‐12th) She also has a Masters Degree (MAT) from CUNY Queens College in Elementary Education (1st-‐6th). She brings a varied background to this crew- having experience teaching in both indoor and outdoor settings. With NorthWest Youth Corps, she worked as an AmeriCorps teacher at an Outdoor Alternative High School. She worked for over a year at Pok‐O‐MacCready Outdoor Education Center in which she was able to get paid to take students Kindergarten to College aged on hikes, bike rides, rock climbing and other fun and exciting outdoor activities. She has also worked for The SCA doing various programs for the past four years. The one she started with and has the most experience with is National High School Crews. She started her wonderful SCA career in Natchez Trace Parkway, MS teaching students how to do various forms of trail work-‐ the main focus being on building a bridge for Bridle pass (horses). Her next gig with The SCA was in Chattahoochee National Forest, GA. Leah and her crew focused on trail closures, re‐routing, building new trail, and fence construction. Next, she had the pleasure of leading with the greatest agency contact of all time (Mr. Steve Lowe) in Harpers Ferry, WV. She enjoyed her time so immensely, that she decided to go back there for a second summer as well. Here her crew focused on tree removal, trail building, (Re- routing, building, laying mulch), and Historic Virginia worm-fence construction. Her next experience with The SCA was attending the Dr. Pepper/Snapple Convention in Texas. Here, along with four others, she focused on getting the public involved with planting native grass and removing trash in a local park. Her next gig with The SCA was with leader teams. She was lucky enough to be put on a Fall 2012 Virginia Crew with four other wonderful people. Here, she was able to step up her trail skills and she was working with peers- as opposed to high school students, which was a fun change of pace. In this crew they focused on creating a new trail where the owner of the park had been hoping one would be built for years. We focused on fence construction out of rustic timber that we chainsawed down. Our team also built a dead-man retaining wall out of rustic timber we also cut down. The next SCA leader team she was given a chance to be a part of was something she will never forget. She was lucky enough to be chosen to be a part of the wonderful Hurricane Sandy Relief Team. Here, the crew focused on tree removal with chainsaws and general trail maintenance on both hiking and biking trails. This crew went around to 6 different state parks in New Jersey during the 14 days. She felt accomplished in doing her part to help the general public after a major natural disaster.
Her personal goal for this program is to re-center her focus on moving forward with her outdoor education life, while gaining experience supervising her peers. Her professional goal for this program is to become a better leader for The SCA, learning how to adapt her ways to maximize the potential for each of her members.
A wonderful member of the Georgia crew is Mr. Clayton Buffer. Clayton is originally from Ohio, and is very proud of his roots! He has a Bachelors Degree (BA) from Ohio State University in Comparative Studies focusing on Folklore. Although he is somewhat bummed that he is not using his degree, he has really enjoyed his past experiences with The SCA, and thus decided to continue forward by entering this wonderful program. Clayton had his first SCA experience by being a member in the eight-month long Desert Restoration Corps team. He completed conservation work- specifically focusing on trail closures, fence building, and habitat restoration. Clayton also participated in a leader team for The SCA in Dinosaur National Monument, which is located on the border of Colorado and Utah. In this crew he worked mainly on trail building and campsite rehabilitation. His personal goal for this program is to be more aware and improve his physical fitness throughout this season by taking better care of his body. His professional goal for this program is to learn how to lead in a way that all of his future members will benefit from his knowledge and skills.
Michael Cocquyt is one of the fantastic members of this riveting Georgia crew, and is originally from Upstate New York where delicious apples flow like water. He has a Bachelors Degree (BS) in Physical Education from SUNY Brockport. He also has a Masters Degree (MA) in Adaptive Physical Activity from KU Leuven. Michael brings a background that is varied in Education (both traditional and non-‐traditional settings) A big part of his past has been working with preschool aged children where he used to be known as "Mr. Mike". Mike has led a National High School Crew in Fairbanks, Alaska. Here they worked on water removal and drainage systems. Mike was also a part of a leader team for The SCA. On this Lake Tahoe crew they completed rockwork, built bridges, fences and did other forms of trail work that focused on fixing erosion issues. His personal goal for this program is to immerse himself as much as he can with the North Georgia community. His professional goal is to expand his knowledge in conservation by working both with The SCA and Army Corps of Engineers.
|A little background information of why we do what we do!|
|Spring is winding down...|
|Trails for Everyone! (By, Mr. Michael Cocquyt)|
|Our life from the eyes of Mr. Clayton Buffer|
|Goodbye Training, Time To get DIRTY!|