Over the past month, a team of nine AmeriCorps members lived and worked at Tremont, shadowing educational programs, exploring the park, learning about fire ecology with our NPS partners, and contributing many hours cutting trail with pulaskis, moving shovelloads of dirt to fill pits created by uprooted trees, wresting privet and honeysuckle up from their tenacious roots, braving (and bleeding from) the thorns of multiflora rose, putting new chainsaw skills to use clearing fallen trees, and hand pulling seemingly endless saplings and vining honeysuckle. All told, the team built and rehabilitated about half a mile of new trail at Tremont’s second campus and cleared about a quarter acre of invasive species. 

AmeriCorps programs provide much-needed assistance to non-profit organizations like Tremont, while giving members hands-on career experience. As generations of Tremont participants can attest, the experience of living in Walker Valley provides ample opportunity for reflection and personal growth, and members left with a deepened appreciation for the natural world and new possibilities for careers in the outdoors. Here are a few reflections from our AmeriCorps volunteers about their experience:

“I was able to hone my trail-building skills while making important personal and career connections.”

“I enjoyed seeing… an outdoor education experience… Learning from all the education opportunities they provided us as volunteers, as well as getting to trail-build again and be outdoors most of the time, has made me really happy and has given me ideas of the kind of environment I will pursue in the future.”

“Tremont helped me learn new ways that we can better integrate with the nature around us and mitigate global warming as well as other serious environmental issues.”

“Waking up and knowing that I have the opportunity to be a part of something so monumental is truly amazing. I love nature, and the fact that Tremont has so kindly immersed us in their little magical, woodsy world is something I will never take for granted.”

This work continues the development of our second campus by providing infrastructure for programming and setting the stage for planting a future food forest. We’re so grateful for the hard work of Alex, Harrison, Kyle, Savanna, Bing, VJ, Cren, Ben, and Emma! They knocked it out of the park… and yes, the pun was intended.

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About the Author

Elizabeth Davis is the Field Programs Specialist at Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. She is a native East Tennessean who grew up exploring and backpacking in the Southern Appalachians before moving away to the snowy mountains of the northeast. She received a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Conservation Biology from Middlebury College, worked at John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina, spent a few seasons at the Ashokan Center in the Catskills, and hiked from Maine to Georgia on the Appalachian Trail before finding her way back home. She has worked at Tremont full-time since 2014.