2023 VetsWork Field Note: Tom Bonnette

by | Field Notes, VetsWork, VW 2023

The last few months working as a Rec Tech (recreation technician) at the Homochitto National Forest through the AmeriCorps VetsWork Program has been a whirlwind of activity that’s been educational and lots of fun.

I was lucky enough to have my first week of work coincide with the reopening of Lake Okhissa, which had been closed for 18 months, to rid it of a massive giant Salvinia infestation. We had around 135 boats on the water the first day, and anxious anglers have kept traffic on the lake steady since. 

Much of my time at the Homochitto National Forest has been spent maintaining the beautiful recreational site as well as the Clear Springs Campground, a few miles west of Okhissa. What beautiful places to work! I sometimes feel like I’m on vacation! Helping maintain Clear Springs is especially satisfying to me because I spent so much time there as a kid. One of my first assignments was walking the 10-mile Richardson Creek Trail there to see what improvements are needed. I discovered that a large tree had fallen and destroyed a bridge there, and we are still working to rebuild it. I can’t wait to get that project done!

Everyone I have worked with has been very helpful, and I have made great friends, especially with my fellow Rec Tech, Rex Roberts. My supervisor, Michael Everette, has been great and has given me the opportunity to move around to assist other employees and give me experience in other jobs. 

Some of these jobs include helping employees who work to preserve our wildlife in the Homochitto National Forest document the red-cockaded woodpecker population. This is an endangered species whose survival is critical to our ecosystem. It makes me proud to contribute in this way to preserve a forest I love. 

Another amazing thing that I’ve gotten to do is help our archaeologists survey areas to document the history of indigenous people by uncovering artifacts left by the Natchez Indians. I have found several and was even given the honor of naming a historical site! I called it the Mayeaux Find in honor of some relatives of mine who were present at the Natchez Indian Revolt of 1729.  I am told that in October, I will get to take part in searching for artifacts in an 18th-century home-place of early settlers near Lake Okhissa. I can’t wait for this as well as seeing what else is in store over the coming months as I complete my internship here!