Corps Cleanup

Tiffany TuellApril 10, 2013 

Even rain couldn't stop the bustle of activity April 4 at the Oakhurst River Parkway as a group of about 35 AmeriCorps members, and some Mountain Area volunteers, worked together to make improvements to the parkway.

It was not AmeriCorps' first time to the parkway -- they helped build the three and-a-half mile trail 20 years ago.

"As usual they came ready to do anything we assigned them -- mostly manual labor which is most difficult to get done by volunteers," said Sandy Brinley, chairperson of the Oakhurst River Parkway. "They were such troopers working in the rain."

AmeriCorps got involved in the project when Allison Peeler, Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership Regional Coordinator, called Jeannie Habben, Chowchilla/Fresno Rivers Watershed coordinator. Peeler asked if there was any way they could do some community service while holding training at Evergreen Conference Center Oakhurst and Habben informed her about the needs of the parkway.

Brinley said the parkway is regularly used by the community, so the clean-up efforts directly benefit everyone in the area.

"So many people walk the parkway for their exercise," Brinley said. "It connects the urban area of Oakhurst with areas of mountain beauty along the various streams (Fresno River and two tributaries)."

The parkway starts at the Oakhurst Branch Library along the Fresno River and goes all the way to Yosemite High School, passing the Oakhurst Community Park, Oakhurst Elementary School, the Boys & Girls Club of Oakhurst, Fresno Flats Historic Village and Park and Oak Creek Intermediate.

Volunteers replaced old logs lining the walkway, installed a new trash can at the park bridge, put in a drain on the trail behind the library, replaced a board on the Yosemite High School trail, and did lots of weedeating and filling in of holes on the parkway.

"It was just a really exciting day to have these people that were natural resource minded and had expertise in that area to know why we were doing what we were doing and to share our community with them," Habben said.

Mike Thornton, co-director of the Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership, said the group was comprised of mainly college graduates with degrees in environmental science. This particular facet of AmeriCorps focuses on watershed restoration.

"They are very interested in what they can do to help protect the environment and the planet that we all count on for our survival," Thornton said. "They come from all over the country to come here and perfom community service. What these young people are doing is really incredible -- serving their country and the Sierra Nevada."

Thornton said their cumulative efforts benefit residents all over the state because 50% of California's water comes from the Sierra.

If anyone is interested in adopting a portion of the parkway to maintain, they can contact the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce at (559) 683-7766.

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