Volunteers from the Keepers of the Kern have cleaned the Upper Kern River for two years now, and are a witness to its improvements. “We took multiple truckloads of trash away from campgrounds while cleaning after the 2014 Independence Day weekend; but we only had to haul out one truckload of big stuff and about thirty regular bags of trash this year,” stated founding member Barbara Hinkey. Volunteers also helped educate the visiting public by working at the Riverkern information booth (which saw over a thousand visitors over the weekend), and by visiting campsites, handing out trash bags, and teaching people how to properly dispose of their trash.
On patrol, and supporting volunteers, was a spectrum of Forest Service and cooperating agency personnel. Fire patrol technicians (FPTs), recreation technicians, firefighters, law enforcement officers (LEOs), and other Forest Service employees made their rounds—contacting and educating visitors in every corner of the District. The on-call firefighting crew Black Eagles 6 came from Porterville to stage for lightning response in the Kern River Valley; and while they were on standby, they went around to campgrounds handing out trash bags, picking up trash, and educating many of the Spanish-speaking visitors. External agencies were also out to help keep our campgrounds safe and clean over the holiday weekend. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Kern County Sheriff Department, and Tulare County Sheriff Department made many educational contacts with visitors in the area.
Forest Service employees in internship roles also had a positive impact. Kelly Shepherd, a senior at University of South Carolina and Dylon Schwahn, a sophomore at University of Tennessee joined the recreation department on the Kern River Ranger District through the Student Conservation Association (www.thesca.org) program. This has given them an opportunity to gain experience toward their future careers and see how public lands are managed. These two students were also cleaning campgrounds and making public contacts over the holiday weekend; and they have stayed busy placing signs, cleaning restrooms, and doing other various recreation jobs this summer. Shepherd is a senior, majoring in biology and also feels that this summer’s exposure to the Forest Service is helping her determine her career path. Schwahn is pursuing a major in Wildlife and Fisheries Science with a focus in Management while participating in UT’s Air Force ROTC program. When asked what it has been like working through the SCA program for the Sequoia National Forest, he stated, “I’ve really enjoyed it—it’s a nice place with a lot of good people, and I’ve gained a lot of experiences I’ll be able to use in the future.”
Thank you again to all our volunteers, partners, and respectful visitors; and everyone please remember to Leave No Trace (www.lnt.org) to keep the Sequoia National Forest beautiful for future visitors!