About 40 people attended a ceremony, on Friday marking the opening of a new hiking trail west of Apalachicola.
The Apalachicola Nature Trail is located on land belonging to the city that runs between Pal Rivers Road and Kevin Road off of Brownsville Road.
Seven young adults, employed by the Franklin County Conservation Corps under the auspices of Franklin’s Promise Coalition, worked through the hottest part of the summer to construct nearly a mile of trail through a variety of habitats including wetlands.
The trail was a joint project of Franklin’s Promise and the city of Apalachicola, in partnership with National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and The Nature Conservancy.
Deborah Keller, the Conservancy’s director of strategic relationships, said the Corps Network acted as a subcontractor for the actual construction. The Corps Network provides critical leadership to the Conservation Corps as it harnesses the power of young adults to tackle some of America’s greatest challenges and transform their own lives.
Over 100 Corps teams operate in all states and the District of Columbia. Each year they collectively enroll approximately 23,000 Corps members from ages 16-25.
According to their website, “Corps provide a wealth of conservation, infrastructure improvement, and human service projects identified by communities as important. More specifically, some Corps improve and preserve our public lands and national parks. Others provide critical energy conservation services, including weatherization. Some Corps restore natural habitats and create urban parks and gardens. Still others provide disaster preparation and recovery to under-resourced communities. Corps also raise the quality of life in low-income communities by renovating deteriorating housing and providing support to in-school and after school education programs.”
Corps mentors Shane Murphy and Abbey Toomer moved to Crawfordville to head up the effort.
Five FranklinCounty residents - Eric Coleman, Will Collins, Haden Foley, Caci Wallace and Kendall Whiteeagle - were employed by the Corps Network and worked without power tools, transporting surfacing materials by wheelbarrow. They even cleared trees without a chainsaw.
Keller said this is a pilot project and the Nature Conservancy hopes to keep Franklin County’s Conservation Corps working and to recruit even more workers and train them in forest stewardship, basic species management, trail building and clearing, reserve maintenance, marsh and reef restoration and coastal stream monitoring.
She said partners have already met to consider more projects for the Corps team.
She said down the road, the Conservancy will have $500,000 in funding for Gulf Coast Restoration and some of it will be spent here. Half the money will be provided by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation with a $250,000 match from the Conservancy. Keller said an individual philanthropist donated the match. She said some of the money might be available for oyster reef restoration, and that the Conservancy is seeking additional partners in the community to suggest conservation projects.
Mayor Van Johnson cut the ribbon opening the new trail. He presented each of the five local Corps members with certification of recognition for their work and complimented them for their dedication in the face of harsh working conditions. He said that the experience built work skills including responsibility and cooperation.
“We are so proud of this group of young people,” said Keller. “We need to do a better job of promoting the fact that preserving nature can be a profession.”
Keller said the Conservancy plans to expand the program by recruiting military veterans to participate in conservation work.
If you are age 18 to 25, and would like to apply for a place in the Corps call Jeanette Taylor at 323-0178.