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Alternative Spring Break Spent Week Serving in Colorado

This spring break I was grateful to be part of a group that traded bikinis and beaches for boots and bruises.

It was part of Doane’s Alternative Spring Break, a trip sponsored by Sertoma. This year, seniors Ryan Corrigan, Caitlin Moore and I organized a week-long trip to Colorado to help restore damages from various forest fires.

A total of 26 students packed into three vans and ventured out for one of the most influential weeks of my life.

Five days were dedicated to hard labor and work with the Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP). We also worked with Americorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) members.

Monday and Thursday were spent working on fire prevention in the Catamount Institute near Pike’s Peak. We dragged slash, a term used for pieces of dead forestry, down the mountain and through a wood chipper to make mulch for future plants. It seemed redundant at times, but the process is necessary to reduce the flammable components in over-forested areas. The CUSP workers made sure that we understood the purpose behind each of our projects, an aspect of the trip that I didn’t expect, but highly valued.

We spent Tuesday working in the area destroyed by the Hayman fire of 2002. We spent the day clipping weak willow bushes down so that the plants can grow back stronger and more supportive to hold in future precipitation. After 10 years, there is still massive damage in the area and much work left to be done, but we made a lot of progress on a project that needed to be done before the spring rainfall.

On Wednesday, we worked in an area hit by the Waldo Canyon fire of 2012. Our project was to create log erosion barriers (LEBs). The barriers act as a trap for sediment and debris as water runs down the mountain. Many locations around Waldo Canyon send water to the Colorado Springs water supply, so LEBs are used to keep the water clean for the community members. After a full day of work, we left the worksite covered in the soot and mud that we had prepared for all week.

We did the same project on Friday in a different location. This time, we worked at the Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs, Colo. That morning, I was surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery I had ever seen. But in the afternoon, that experience was blown out of the water when we moved over the hill into a new spot. The fire had wiped out everything in the area and left nothing but burnt tree trunks and rock. It’s terrible that it took a fire to do so, but when the greenery of the trees isn’t in the way, the beauty of the rock formations below has a chance to shine.

I am more than proud of the 26 students on the trip for committing a week to service and improving a community. I am also proud of us for raising more than $3,000, which provided for meals, transportation and housing and will contribute a significant donation to CUSP.

I think I speak for the 26 students on the trip when I say thank you to everyone who donated and made such an incredible trip possible. We could not have done it without your help. We also thank CUSP and NCCC for their support and guidance on the trip; we got more in this week than we could have imagined.