GRAHAM COUNTY — Trails, trees and trash were targets for the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps at Dankworth Pond, a sub-unit of Roper Lake State Park, the past two weeks.

“After the Game and Fish project reworked the entire foot print of the pond itself, a lot of touch up work needed to be done,” Roper Lake State Park Manager Robert Young said. “The park sat unattended for a long time. With (AmeriCorps’) help, the volunteers of the park and park staff, we started the tidy up process.

“We are not done yet,” he continued. “We are working on trails, removing downed trees and touch up work from the original Game and fish project. We have some more amenities we want to add. We are working on the funding process for picnic tables and so forth.”

Young said the team of volunteers is working to get the park open “as soon as possible,” even if all the improvements aren’t yet in place.

“The idea is still to get it open as soon as possible and still have it in a presentable state,” Young said. “This is the focal point right now,” Young said.  “I don’t have an update on fishing yet.”

AmeriCorps is a full-time residential based program for young men and women 18-24 years old, to assist in improvement projects within the United States. The team came to the Gila Valley for a two-week project to complete much of the dirty work needed to open up the Dankworth Pond after a lengthy draining, clean and refill project.

The team worked on the trail, cleared debris and cleaned the wash so water can flow to from the pond — when full — to the drought-ravaged cottonwood trees.

They also assisted with cement work at Roper Lake.

The AmeriCorps volunteers finished their part of the work on Friday.

“AmeriCorps has five campuses,” team leader Justin Farley said.  “We’re based out of the Denver and all of us are from different parts of the country. I’m from upstate New York.

“Once you join the program you’re working with us for 10 months for non-profits all over the Southwest region,” he continued. “You get a living allowance, housing and food are provided for you, as well as an education award for completing the program. At this point it's $5,550 to go toward college or other schooling.”

“The fact of serving communities in need has really inspired me to something I want to do in my life; to help others in need. It’s not all about you. That’s what I have got out of AmeriCorps,” said Garret Clay, of California.

Clay said that after he is finished he would continue in government service through the military or the Peace Corps.

The team members also enjoyed some of the sights around the Gila Valley, including a hike up Bear Canyon Trail on Mount Graham. After leaving, they planned to spend a day at Kartchner Caverns, near Benson.

AmeriCorps is based on the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s and the U.S. military. AmeriCorps NCCC serves communities in every state.

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