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News.bytesNews.bytes Extra, issue 420

Scout completes leadership service project on public lands

To complete one of the major stepping stones to reach the rank of Eagle Scout, a Life Scout is required to plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a worthwhile project that benefits a religious institution, school or community. While searching for such a project that would provide an interesting challenge, Life Scout Matt Friscia of Boy Scout Troop 131 of Palm Desert contacted the BLM's Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office. (text continues below)

A scout in a red T-shirt and wearing leather gloves, cuts branches with a red clipper
Scouts trimmed or removed low-hanging hazardous branches.

The BLM staff suggested trail maintenance and restoration work on the Corn Springs Campground Interpretive Trail, near the town of Desert Center. The Corn Springs Campground is a remote BLM facility in an area rich in historic and cultural significance within the Chuckwalla Mountains. A half-mile-long interpretive trail passes through a desert palm oasis, a desert riparian wash, and several rocky outcrops with Native American petroglyphs, but it needed maintenance and restoration work. This project would improve both the visitor experience at the campground as well as the surrounding public lands.

 Scouts dig with shovels and carry away buckets
Scouts install a water bar to allow water drainage across the trail.

Scouts shovel around a tall plant
Scouts use a dead Ocotillo as vertical mulching to disguise a former trail section.

Scouts place rocks alongside a dirt path, while others walk further up the path
Scouts busy rebuilding rock steps.

Scouts shovel while others watch and wait their turns
Scouts prepare a site to relocate an interpretative marker. The Palm oasis and campground can be seen in background.

During the first phase of the project, Matt walked the length of the interpretive trail with BLM staff -- noting areas that would require work, such as erosion control, brushing, rerouting of trail segments, restoration, reconstruction of rock steps, and relocation of several interpretive markers. BLM staff showed Matt how to use of handheld GPS units and in marking points and plotting the trail location. Using the data Matt collected, BLM staff printed a large map from which he was able to plan his work.

Back home, Matt completed the second phase of the project, which included the development of a strategic work plan. This plan included the layout of the work, as well as the logistics for the project such as the appropriate type and number of tools, materials and supplies that would be needed, and recruiting the fellow Scouts that would assist him with the project. 

The final phase began on a Saturday morning at the campground. As the Scouts arrived at camp, Matt organized and laid out the handtools -- then rounded everyone up for a safety talk. Matt then divided the work party into smaller groups and assigned each one a specific task. Throughout the day, Matt shuffled between the groups; supervising the work as well as ensuring the scouts were following his workplans and adhering to safety guidelines. 
A man speaks to scouts assembled in a flat area surrounded by rocks
Volunteer Archaeological Site Steward Jon McBride discusses the history of rock art near the work site.

The Scouts were given several educational breaks throughout the day, and several guest speakers gave interpretive talks. In appreciation of the work, BLM archaeologist Chris Dalu discussed the role of the archaeologist, the significance of historical and cultural artifacts that might be encountered during the project as well as what should be done if any artifact was unearthed. The Scouts showed particular interest learning how the color or symbols on the old glass could help the archaeologist determine what year the glass may have been manufactured.

The second guest speaker was Jon McBride, a long time volunteer archaeological site steward at the Corn Springs site. Jon gave up part of his Saturday for the long drive to discuss the occupation of the site by miners in the early 1900’s and before that, the Native American Indians. Jon led a tour of rock art on nearby outcroppings and provided insightful information on settlement of the area.

The final guest speaker of the day was BLM Law Enforcement Ranger Javier Cortazar. Javier, a native to the Blythe area, shared with the Scouts how his interest in natural resources led to his work as a Student Career Experience Program student with the BLM -- which eventually led to his full time position. He also talked about his role as a Ranger, answering questions from the Scouts.
A man talks to scouts amid rocky terrain
BLM Law Enforcement Ranger Javier Cortazar talks to the scouts.
The highlight of afternoon for everyone was the rare appearance of 13 Desert Bighorn Sheep that grazed on a ridge above camp while everyone worked. Later that evening, the Scouts enjoyed grilled hot dogs and burgers around a large campfire that seemed to provide little protection from the unusually intense winds and cold temperature that descended upon the camp after sundown.
The following day, the Scouts were back on the trial and working hard. Matt broke the Scouts into small groups and again and divided the work. Some scouts rebuilt a series of rock steps, some carried buckets of gravel up the hill to place on the trail, others cut down low-hanging branches and re-aligned the rock borders on the trail's edge. By early afternoon, everyone was ready to pack up and head home for an evening of well deserved rest.

A group of scouts in red T-shirts and their advisors, pose in front of a travel trailer
Scout Troop 131. Matt Friscia, future Eagle Scout is in the back row, far right.

The Bureau of Land Management appreciates the work provided by the Scouts and other youth organizations and may have opportunities for service related projects in your area. Contact the volunteer coordinator at your local BLM office if you are in need of a project or assistance.

- Dan Westermeyer, BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner, 1/10

BLM-California News.bytes, issue 420

Last updated: 02-18-2010