The National Forest Foundation has a longstanding partnership with the VF Foundation that has resulted in years of youth workforce development, improved trails, and increased access to the outdoors. In 2020, the NFF launched the Colorado Front Range Trail Stewardship Strike Team, thanks to the invaluable support of the VF Foundation. Since then, VF Foundation has expanded their support to address community needs and recreation access across Southern California communities and National Forests through the Trail Stewardship and Workforce Development in Southern California National Forests Project.
The COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 wildfire season have resulted in major impacts on popular National Forest trails. The high number of visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in increased impacts on popular trails, while wildfires have closed large portions of National Forests, concentrating visitor impacts in a few, overburdened recreation areas. The Trail Stewardship and Workforce Development in Southern California National Forests Project addressed these issues by providing much-needed maintenance and stewardship of popular trails, as well as employment to historically marginalized communities, across Southern California.
The NFF partnered with multiple organizations to achieve this project’s recreation and workforce goals.
Los Padres Forest Association
The mission of the Los Padres Forest Association (LPFA) is to ensure the Los Padres National Forest thrives and remains safe and open for public use. This summer, the LPFA employed a youth trail crew in the Los Padres National Forest to work on various trails such as the Santa Cruz trail, White Rock trail, and Big Sur trail, among others.
In under two months, the youth crew successfully completed four demanding miles of trail restoration. This is challenging and rewarding work - restoring a trail to forest specifications includes widening tread, brushing a corridor (8ft wide by 10ft high), removing slough, re-establishing drainage, removing tripping and overhead hazards, and building rock retaining walls. Along the way, they watched the sun set in Big Sur, dipped in creeks to cool off, and had many wildlife encounters with rattlesnakes and bears.
Southern California Mountains Foundation Urban Conservation Corps
Southern California Mountains Foundation Urban Conservation Corps (UCC) provides young adults from San Bernardino and Riverside Counties with paid work experience and pathways for earning their high school diploma. The UCC worked with the NFF and US Forest Service to hire 6 Urban Conservation Corps members to improve 28 miles of existing trails across the Big Bear Lake area in the San Bernardino National Forest.
San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps
The mission of the San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps (SGVCC) is to develop and transform disadvantaged youth in the San Gabriel Valley by providing academic, vocational, and leadership development while also employing them to provide valuable services to improve their communities and the natural environment.
The SGVCC employed 20 youth corpsmembers and 10 field supervisors and staff to undergo sawyer training, leadership training, and wilderness survival training. The goals of the training are to provide quality training to underserved youth, support important upcoming projects, and build capacity for local conservation corps and/or other environmental groups.
Conservation Corps of Long Beach
The Conservation Corps of Long Beach (SGVCC) has worked to help youth realize their potential while serving the Gateway Cities area, offering its corpsmembers access to a variety of environmental work experiences while also facilitating personal development opportunities.
The CCLB worked with the Cleveland National Forest to address post-fire recreation improvements on the Trabuco Ranger District. For example, 10 CCLB corpsmembers worked together to brush, scrape, and clear the Holy Jim Falls Trail, a popular Orange County trail that has been closed for several years due to the 2018 Holy Jim Fire. Their hard work has made it safer and more navigable for the general public, supporting reopening efforts across trails that have been closed for several years.