“What are you doing working on a Holiday?” This was the question asked by many of the urban hikers this past Friday as they passed the worksite for the Veterans Day 2016 Trails Work Party hosted by The Seattle Trails Alliance and the Veterans Conservation Corps (VCC). For a certain group of veterans and community volunteers, last Friday, November 11th was a day “ON”, a chance to engage in service alongside those who have served and continue to serve. About 20 volunteers worked most of the day on the Hidden Valley Trail at Discovery Park to resurface the trail with crushed rock and installing the final elements of a granite staircase.
While the Trails Program at Seattle Parks routinely hosts groups to help maintain its 100+ miles of Urban Trails across the city, this time it was different said Trails Coordinator, Chukundi Salisbury. “It was an exciting opportunity to work alongside real veterans who wanted to be engaged in service! For many Veterans Day is a chance to BBQ and hang out with friends. For others it is a chance to visit the memorials of those we have lost. Today was a chance to actually serve with those who have served”
The VCC is part of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs and specifically the Behavioral Health division. The program seeks to assist veterans by providing opportunities to connect to the community, the environment and themselves. Although the corps outwardly seeks to engage veterans with hands-on work projects such as Stream Restoration & Monitoring or accessible trail building, they are also creating a space for “Eco-Therapy” to happen. “Eco-therapy” refers to healing and growth nurtured by healthy interaction with the earth. “Many of our veterans are not in a good place and need services, however they also avoid traditional endpoints such as the VA.”, according to Jason Alves, a Project Manager at the VCC. “Projects such as this allow us to provide an alternative and safe place for veterans to interact with each other. We also use these events for education about other VA services and programs.” Learn more about the VCC here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/VeteransConservationCorps/about/
Laborious and intense, these trail projects seek to maintain and extend equitable access to the green spaces here in Seattle. By laying down a layer of crushed rock, they are providing a firm and durable surface that will last for years even when covered by leaves and other organic material. Trails are the tip of the spear and provide the access point for the many groups that use our parks. From trail runners, bird watchers and recreational walkers to those engaged in restoration of the urban forest, all access begins with a trail. The Seattle Trail Alliance has partnered with Seattle Parks and Recreation to help advocate for trails and those that use them. Volunteer opportunities are posted at http://www.seattletrails.org
To celebrate the event and mark the occasions a metal plaque commemorating the date was installed on the final step of the granite of granite staircase. These stairs will be enjoyed for generations to come.
KOMO news dropped by to interview veterans about ongoing service. You can check that story here: KOMO news interview!
Take a moment to view a video recap of the event here on YOUTUBE: Video Recap!