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Member Stories

Bemidji crew works Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge

The sun rose quickly through a clear sky, burning off all the dew that settled earlier in the morning. We were walking through a wooden trail, following our project host in the Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge to look at the work site, when the woods suddenly opened up to a prairie like a sea of grass spreading outward, the horizon only broken here and there miles in the distance by aspen and oak forests. Our job was to help create an oak savannah landscape by painting herbicide onto the aspen trees in one section of the land. We became familiar with the location, ate lunch, and began painting trees that afternoon. Read More

The Great Minnesota Boat Ride

“The Land of 10,000 Lakes” they say.  The 800,000 registered boats in the state only need an average capacity of 6.75 persons to take the entire population of Minnesota for a boat ride this weekend.  And with the actual number of lakes at 11,842 there should be plenty of room.  Wow, the feasibility of this plan is pretty amazing. Just be sure to clean any plants off your boat and check for zebra mussels before you leave the boat landing! Read More

My other office is a canoe

I recently had the great pleasure of attending two Conservation Corps mid-year retreats; one for Individual Placements like me, and one for crews. The time spent with my fellow Corps members has been just the refreshment I needed. As Individual Placements, we don’t get as many opportunities to build camaraderie. It was nice to finally feel a true sense of community amongst my peers whether it was throwing down on the field during Corps Olympics or just relaxing around a campfire throwing a Frisbee. Victory was oh so sweet after my Olympics team, Loon, laid everything out there. Whatever hole was left from loss of dignity and sore muscles was quickly filled with s’mores. Besides the fun, I was glad we Individual Placements all got a chance to talk about our similar experiences; struggles, victories and all. Read More

We build bridges

We build bridges and docks, walls and trails, staircases to the highest elevations and well… you get the idea. We build things. It’s easy to see the structures we construct. They are lasting and useful, but its not easy to see the qualities we build in people.We build character. Not like regular character, but more like the character your grandad talks about when he used to walk ten miles to school uphill both ways, barefoot...through the snow.We build relationships. Not the “Hey, I saw you in the grocery store one time” kind of relationships, but the “You changed my life, thank you for being here and being who you are” kind of relationships.We build strength. The old man muscle, the kind that makes you feel like “Popeye ain’t got nothin’ on me”. Strength of the will and power of the spirit. Read More

Life on the run

This summer has been absolutely action packed. I feel as though I have been living like a drifter on the run from the law, but that is probably just my imagination getting away with me. I swear that I am a regular law-abiding citizen, though I haven’t spent a full week at home for the past two months. Lately it seems there is always some event or place to spread the word on solar assistance, whether it be client calls, fairs, classes, conferences, or retreats. This leads me to travel hundreds of miles in just one or two days and sleep in strange places on the regular. It is both maddening and so very fun! Read More

They don’t call us the Ottertrail crew for nothin’!

June has meant the return of real warm weather, and with that, some of our favorite work. The Ottertail crew spent two weeks in Becker County this month on the beautiful North Country Trail, a long-distance trail that will eventually stretch from New York to North Dakota. We had the pleasure of working with Ray Vlasek, volunteer coordinator for the Laurentian Lakes chapter of the North Country Trail Association, who graciously put down his pulaski for a few minutes one lunchtime to talk about life, trails, and what it’s like to work with the Corps. Read More