AmeriCorp NCCC is a full-time, team-based residential program for men and women age 18–24. Each core member serves a full-time ten-month term conducting three to four projects within five program areas, Natural and Other Disasters, Infrastructure Improvement, Environmental Stewardship and Conservation, Energy Conservation, and Urban and Rural Development. Core members represent a wide variety of socio-economic, cultural, geographic, and educational backgrounds. They include those with graduate degrees and some who are working on their high school equivalency diplomas. Members serve in teams of eight to twelve and are assigned to projects throughout the region served by their campus. They are trained in CPR, first aid, public safety, and other skills before beginning their first service project. Each team is provided one 15 passenger van and fuel is covered by AmeriCorps NCCC.
The City of Casa Grande has been fortunate to have hosted four teams to date from the NCCC AmeriCorps program. Their volunteer efforts provided not only invaluable trail construction but motivated a multitude of individuals to serve their community in a similar capacity. Media coverage covering the efforts of the AmeriCorps teams inspired local churches, scout troops, juvenile detention groups, probationers, and school and athletic groups to attend trail building events on Casa Grande Mountain. In just two years of trail building seasons the four AmeriCorps NCCC teams constructed over 10 miles of safe and sustainable new trails and crew lead volunteers in building over 6 miles of trails during events.
The first team, FIRE FOUR, served from January through March of 2011. FIRE FOUR battled cold weather and rough terrain, building almost 1,000 feet of trail during their first four days on the project. They assisted in various special events including clean-up for the Annual Street Fair sponsored by Mainstreet, attended planning meetings and tutoring for a high school mentoring program, painted the Casa Grande Food Bank, served food to the needy via Seeds of Hope and assisted with the Daybreak Rotary Club “Give Kids a Smile” event. FIRE FOUR even coordinated a service event, “GET WITH IT,” to motivate youth to get involved. The event highlighted several local organizations that offer positive youth experiences including Students Against Destructive Decisions, Casa Grande Alliance and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Casa Grande Valley.
FIRE EIGHT began service on March 16 and built well over 10,000 feet of trail during their stay through May 3, 2011. FIRE EIGHT braved scorching temperatures and used various games and singing to break up the monotony of trail building and ignore sore muscles. This team labored through difficult mountain terrain including a monster wash, huge rock ledges, and built the final connection of the signature ridge trail to the biggest trailhead on the north portion of Casa Grande Mountain Park. They created a north to south loop that allows hikers, mountain bikers and equestrian users a five-mile (one way) hike through desert landscapes and rocky overviews. As if their time on the mountain wasn’t challenging enough, they also assisted Recreation Staff during the Catfish Rodeo event in March, the City-wide Clean Up in April, the annual Easter Egg Hunt and mentored at our local high schools.
FIRE TWO held ten members eager to start their quest on the mountain. Like the two teams before them, they helped develop the final southern portion of the trail system tying to the Arica Road trailhead. The fast working team built over 2000 feet of trail during their first week in town! The team gave back to the community, restoring the mural on the side of Len Colla Recreation Center for their Martin Luther King Jr. Day service project. Members also put in hours assisting the local animal shelter, food bank and the Daybreak Rotary Club.
FIRE SEVEN worked in Casa Grande from March until May of 2012. Although the smallest team to date with only eight members, this mighty team not only built and restored over two miles of existing trail they also installed much needed trail signs. Directional signs are difficult to install because the mountain rock makes it hard to hand dig and the team is required to haul heavy gallons of water and tons of concrete bags up the mountain on carts. They also spruced up the Little League fields, preparing the complex for the Spring ball season.
City of Casa Grande staff, Mayor and City Council and trail users will forever appreciate the efforts of the Americorps NCCC teams. These teams, supported by community volunteers, provided a trail system that not only provides recreation and healthy opportunities for youth and adults but also serves as a draw for visitors, providing much-needed economic stimulus to the community.