The last seven months with the United States Forest Service (USFS) as an AmeriCorps intern with Mt. Adams Institute (MAI) have been impactful for myself, the agency, and the community. Signs of fall are on the horizon as the summer fades away; reminding me that this internship will also be ending soon. The time spent as a developed recreation site surveyor has provided ample opportunities to work hard, grow, engage with the community, and make meaningful connections professional and otherwise. I have met amazing people who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that myself and other VetWork interns needs were being met. Last month at a quarterly MAI training, the accommodations that a member of the community provided for my daughter and I were phenomenal and beyond words. Camping on the White Salmon River between Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams, eating local organic foods with beautiful friends was an experience I hope everyone will have some day. I have had great support on the Willamette National Forest, Detroit Ranger District (RD) from my supervisors and specialists, from in the field taking samples, to the campgrounds making valuable contacts with the public. The knowledgeable staff at Detroit RD have helped me, encouraged me, and allowed me to ask questions to learn more about the multi-faceted USFS agency.
Coalition of Hope Update
COH is currently in Phase 2: identifying/ contacting stakeholders and community partners to collaborate in creating multi-age appropriate learning activities using nature therapy techniques to enhance emotional recovery for at risk youth. I am currently working with the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center to develop “The Forest Floor Healing” project proposal, and at this time we are hoping there will be funding available for the program. While working on this project, COH is reaching out to organizations that are already providing meaningful opportunities for at risk youth to experience nature. The goal is to increase our understanding of how programs like these form and operate long term. In addition, I have been researching sites with culturally significant restoration opportunities that will provide meaningful experiences for at risk youth within forest communities. This program is being designed to provide a free, fun, educational nature experience to encourage the emotional and physical healing both in the child and the landscape.
USFS- Willamette National Forest, Detroit Ranger Station
I have had the opportunity to be a part of site accessibility surveys for over 100 developed recreation sites since May 1, 2017, covering four districts, and thousands of miles. During these surveys, I assessed conditions of campgrounds, trailheads, day-use areas, and other types of developed recreation sites within the forest. Creating a data collection method for accessibility in conjunction with condition surveys has expedited the process of how data is passed. We have streamlined the data collection method to encompass both the condition of the minor constructed feature (ie: picnic table, fire ring, water fountain) and the accessibility (ie: how easy is the feature to use for a person with a disability). Looking at the accessibility of a feature is the condition, and should be measured as one. Condition and accessibility of a minor constructed feature are not two separate concepts but the same.
After seven months of collecting site data we have determined that, if the condition measures the functionality of a feature or its ability to work but does not measure how accessible it is to use for a person with disabilities then we have not been truly measuring its condition. The condition of the working function of a feature should measure its working function for everyone. The goal of simplifying the survey process into one step increases the feasibility of more accessible developed sites at less cost.
Surveying the quantities of accessible features on the ground, documenting the condition, location, and functionality while measuring the condition of the feature will save the agency time and money. With tools like GIS analysis I have been working on creating a density map that measures the amount of accessible features at all the sites within the forest; providing valuable information to the USFS for future accessibility planning at developed recreation sites. At this time I have not quantified the savings; but streamlining the way we measure accessibility on the forest will save the agency from doing the same job twice.
My time so far with the USFS has been a positive experience full of rich opportunity for growth and knowledge. I have enjoyed my time thus far working with all the knowledgeable people on this forest. I have been welcomed into a community that cares about our forest and the people, and I am grateful for all of the support and leadership from my supervisors and mentors. Continuing to find my place in this world through the meaningful connections I have been exposed too this year allows me to grow in all ways. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself, making a difference for the greater good.