CorpsTHAT Crew- Texas

Program Year: 2022
Project Partners: National Parks Foundation and
Big Thicket National Preserve
Program Dates: 7/23 To 8/13
Leader(s): Sam Bragg
Ages of Corps Member: 18+

CorpsTHAT’s Conservation Crew worked in the Big Thicket National Preserve (BITH) as part of the National Park Foundation grant. This is the first year that CorpsTHAT and BITH have partnered up. CorpsTHAT is an all Deaf conservation crew, and BITH’s resource and maintenance management team is an all-hearing non-signing team. ASL interpreters were present for orientation, tailgate meetings, and a graduation ceremony. Tera Lynn is an NPS staff member who knows ASL and has worked to connect the park, CorpsTHAT, and the local Deaf community of Southeast Texas. BITH and NPS want conservation crews to experience the National Park Service as a whole rather than as a means to work on needed projects for the period. NPS believes that great work will be accomplished; however, the bigger mission is for the crew to learn about the different departments in the NPS, discover ways in which they could succeed in an NPS career, and create memories that will encourage the crew to continue visiting NPS sites across the country.

Project Accomplishments

  • 6 corps members
  • 3.1 miles of trail maintenance and trail corridor improved
  • 2 acres of land improved and invasive species removed
  • 1 interior room painted
  • 10 ten-gallon bags of trash collected
  • 20 Dragonfly larvae collected
  • 50 hours of education provided
  • 17 hours of outdoor recreation provided
  • 12 hours of leadership development

Neches Bottoms- Big Thicket National Preserve
At Neches Bottoms, we focused on removing Golden bamboo, an invasive species across southeastern and southern parts of the United States.
Kirby Nature Trail – Big Thicket National Preserve
For this particular project, we worked with the maintenance department at NPS. We focused on clearing the corridor of Kirby Nature Trail as well as trail clearing on the many boardwalks on the trail.
Pitcher Plant Trail- Big Thicket National Preserve
On the day we were at Pitcher Plant trail, we were graced with a guided ranger hike and some work clearing the trail’s corridor. Ranger Tera Lynn guided us on this hike by discussing in ASL a wide variety of topics, including plant identification, prescribed burns and more!
Solo Tract – Big Thicket National Preserve
At Solo Tract, we thinned the longleaf pine throughout the perimeter the NPS set for us. We identified the trees by the markings (paint/flag colors) for cutting. We used pruning saws and bow saws to cut down the marked trees. We learned how to cut wedges for larger trees so that it becomes easier to cut through and tip the tree in the direction we want it to fall.
Holly Grove Day Use Area – Big Thicket National Preserve
We assisted folks from the resources department at Big Thicket National Preserve with collecting 20 Dragonfly larvae from Menard Creek. Once we’ve collected all 20 larvae, they will be labeled and shipped to a lab to test for mercury levels.

Esmeralda Baez, 23, Los Angeles, California. “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. ~ Howard Zinn”

When I joined CorpsTHAT, I constantly learned the purpose of conserving and preserving the national parks and environment. Throughout the three weeks, I have learned how to identify plants, understand the meaning behind removing non-native invasive plants and learned more about Leave No Trace and its seven principles. One of the few things that stuck with me is unethical things related to the outdoors.

Every so-called unethical thing with LNT affects the environment equally; there’s no one unethical issue that is more important than the other. For example, loud groups on hiking trails and feeding wildlife are the most frequent issues. These are the common issues I have seen, but I never truly understood how they could impact before joining CorpsTHAT. Now I know loud groups such as boombox or screaming can scare animals or even disturb bears in the winter and ruin their sleeping cycle. Feeding wildlife can seem fun, but it can lead them to depend on humans to provide for them and lose their hunting and gathering skill. Both are equally unethical. It truly gave me a new perspective on ethics’ meaning to the outdoors and caring for nature. One of my favorite activities was canoeing with my crew, National Park Service, NPS, and staff. It was super fun! There are a few memories that I enjoyed and cherished, such as working on different projects with NPS staff, and a lot of laughter and sharing funny stories with my crew every night at dinner time. I am grateful to have the opportunity to work with CorpsTHAT. I hope there are more people to join CorpsTHAT in the future.

Steven Kevin Guerrier, 23, Hyattsville, Maryland. “ I have never seen a toothache tree before, yet there are so many!”

This is my third time participating in CorpsTHAT Conservation Crew. I have enjoyed these past three weeks. It was wonderful to help out the crew and build relationships with them. With my experience from the past two years, I can definitely say that I hope to become a Crew Leader one day. I also wanted to say thank you to the CorpsTHAT team for working hard to make this happen. Through my experience, I’ve learned a lot from the NPS staff about preserving the environment, identifying plants and different types of wildlife species, and working with various tools. Last but not least, thanks to Sam Bragg for the certification in Leave No Trace.

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