AmeriCorps team helps build trail in Kent
But now a six-member team led by Shepard, 23, has spent nearly a month in northwestern Connecticut working on trails, planting trees and performing community service as part of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps.
AmeriCorps was established in 1994 to help Americans complete service projects with nonprofits and government agencies.
The team spent a day last week hiking 2 miles up and down Kent Mountain, helping the Kent Land Trust create a trail connecting property acquired in 2014 with existing trails overseen by the Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust.
“I was shocked by the beauty,” Shepard said. “Also, it used to be that going to a new state was a big thing, and now we’re in another state in an hour.”
The land trust connected with AmeriCorps through the Litchfield Hills Greenprint Collaborative, a partnership of 23 organizations — including the Kent Land Trust— that has teamed up with AmeriCorps for years. This is the second time the Kent Land Trust has worked with AmeriCorps.
The team will complete projects for other members of the collaborative until Saturday, before the group travels to West Virginia to work with a group of Boy Scouts.
Team members started their 10-month service in February with training in Baltimore before traveling to Hartford to build five houses with Habitat for Humanity. They completed projects in Maine and New Hampshire.
AmeriCorps NCCC is dedicated to men and women between the ages of 18 and 24, though members can serve when they are 25 as long as an application was submitted when they were 24.
Gus Merwin, 25, from Pardeeville, Wis., said Shepard’s team is older than most. Three of the seven members are 25.
The group is diverse not only racially and ethnically, but geographically: The seven members all come from different states, some from rural areas, some from urban.
Marcott and Merwin said they have enjoyed meeting residents of the places they work.
“That really helps you get to know the community,” Marcott said. “You’re working with people who work and live in the community every day.”
Team members said they joined AmeriCorps to gain skills, travel and have an adventure.
”It’s been a great experience,” Marcott said, adding it has inspired her to consider an environmental career instead of criminal justice.
Marcott said the work can be challenging, but seeing how their service helps makes it worthwhile.
Michael Benjamin, the land manager for the Kent Land Trust, said completing the new trail would not have been possible without the work of the AmeriCorps team.
“The project was in the works for close to two years and we didn’t have the manpower to do it,” he said. “They’ve been indispensable.”