CCC – To the letter, organization makes Tahoe and workers better |

CCC – To the letter, organization makes Tahoe and workers better

They love the sound of chain saws in the morning.

They are young men and women who work year-round in the Lake Tahoe Basin, building trails, thinning dense parts of the forest, doing erosion-control projects and completing other conservation work.

About 60 members of the California Conservation Corps live and work at Lake Tahoe. That number rises to about 75 or 80 in the summer.

“I love working outdoors. I love working with chain saws. I’m hooked,” said Terry Hickson, a 20-year-old corps member from Los Angeles who has been working in Tahoe for five months. “I’m not the type that can sit behind a desk.”

The CCC is a statewide program that takes men and women, 18 to 23 years old, from California and puts them to work on conservation projects. They work 40 hours a week at minimum wage for at least one year. At night, they take classes.

There are more than 2,000 corps members statewide.

In Tahoe, they are supervised by about 12 staff members.

“One of the main things they get out of it is work ethic,” said Bill Martinez, a project coordinator for the Lake Tahoe CCC. “The California Conservation Corps has many rules. They have to show up for work on time. They have to be in uniform. They have to work hard all day long. Entry-level employers want people who are responsible. This makes them responsible. This gives them a good work ethic.”

With as much as one-third of the tress in the basin dead and the variety of hiking and biking trails available, Tahoe is an ideal place for them.

Residents probably have seen their work. The corps members have completed projects for Sugar Pine Point and Bliss state parks, U.S. Forest Service, California Tahoe Conservancy, all of the basin’s counties, the city of South Lake Tahoe and other agencies. They can work in California and Nevada.

Last year the CCC completed a two-mile trail from Vikingsholm to Eagle Point, Martinez said, which included building a 60-foot bridge and several smaller bridges.

“It’s just some incredible work,” he said. “The 60-foot bridge is beautiful, and the smaller bridges are pretty impressive.”

The men and women live and attend classes at a renovated former ski lodge at the top of Echo Summit.

What brings them to the corps?

Martinez said it is a variety of reasons. Some of the corps members never graduated high school and like the educational component; some of them are college forestry graduates and want some field experience to start their careers.

“They all want to make a positive change in their lives,” Martinez said.

None of the members can be on probation or parole when joining, and while employed by the corps they must stay away from drugs, alcohol and violence.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for these kids to gain experience in an urban forest setting,” said John Resburg, a crew supervisor with the Lake Tahoe CCC.

He should know, too. Resburg was a corps member in 1989. Then he worked with the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and returned to the CCC as a supervisor last year.

“I was a corps member just like these guys,” he said.

Others would like follow his example.

“Hopefully, I can get a job doing exactly what I’m doing now,” Hickson said. “This is a good career opportunity.”

Brian Larsen, 22, from Riverside, Calif., said he joined the CCC for a new start.

“I didn’t really feel like I was going anywhere,” he said.

Larsen has been at Lake Tahoe for six months and said he loves it.

“I’m a total mountain person,” he said. “I like the outdoors.”

Chris Lingenfelter, a 20-year-old from Riverside, Calif., who has been with the CCC for six months, has similar feelings.

“It’s a fun job, a good educational experience for me,” he said. “It’s a new start from the life I was living.”

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