Ranch Update

Using many hands lightens the load on Fiscalini Ranch Preserve improvements

Special to The CambrianSeptember 9, 2013 

California Conservation Corps workers remove invasive ice plant from along the bluff trail on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve in Cambria.


"Volunteers Make it Happen” was a great theme for this year’s Pinedorado Parade and it’s so true, they do. Without volunteers, nonprofit groups — such as Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve — would be hard pressed to fulfill their missions. But partnerships are also wonderful because they multiply what volunteers alone can achieve.

Recently, we were lucky enough to put together a great partnership, one that involved the Cambria Tourism Board (CTB), the California Conservation Corps (CCC), the Cambria Community Services District and FFRP volunteers.

The bluff trail on the Ranch is such a beautiful example of Cambria’s natural spaces for tourists to visit. Recognizing the preserve’s value as a visitor attraction, the Cambria Tourism Board gave FFRP a grant to help remove invasive species from encroaching on the trail. Ice plant, which grows fast onto the trail and also smothers the native plants and wildflowers that could grow there, was the targeted species for this project.

FFRP, with a small match of our own funds was able to hire the CCC for a day of work. The corps members have great attitudes, are enthusiastic and work hard. Once you hire them you are often able to receive the benefit of their volunteer labor as well. The crews are required to work a certain number of hours during the week and, if they haven’t been contracted elsewhere, they may volunteer their time to a cause like ours.

We were lucky enough to be on the receiving end of some of these volunteer hours. We hired them for a full day and received an additional day of volunteer work.

If you are unfamiliar with the CCC, they work for a wide range of project sponsors, including nonprofit agencies like FFRP. Crews consist of about 10 to 16 young men and women from all walks of life. These young people, between the ages of 18 and 25, not only work every day assisting with natural resource jobs and emergency response efforts during times of disaster, they are all continuing their formal education and enhancing their job skills at the same time.

Each member has a chance to go on to a leadership position within the organization, if they qualify. They earn minimum wage for their work and are involved in the corps for three years.

You have probably seen them before on the Ranch. They built the bluff trail, boardwalk and bridge and they have been involved with thistle, radish and mustard removal in the past. It was great for the new crew to see the accomplishments of past corps members.

So now we have the CTB and the CCC involved. But wait — there’s more! The Ranch manager, Carlos Mendoza, saw that CCSD had equipment that would make the job much more efficient. He volunteered an ATV, a small trailer, a dump trailer, a tractor and operator and a porta-potty to allow more handwork to be done by the corps.

All that youthful energy could be spent chopping and digging and removing more than five dump truckloads of ice plant from the Ranch.

And last, but certainly not least, our Wednesday Weeders joined in, working behind the corps, cleaning and finishing the edge of the trail where the ice plant was removed. They are about halfway through their finish work at this time and hope to continue until the job is complete.

Although we have removed several patches of ice plant over the last few years, it is a grueling job, made even worse by having to haul the water-laden greenwaste off the property. Volunteers alone would have been lucky to pull and move even one truckload full of this noxious invasive.

With the partnership of the Cambria Tourism Board, the California Conservation Corps, the CCSD and FFRP volunteers, so much more could be accomplished to keep the Ranch the scenic wonderland it is! Thank you, partners.

Jo Ellen Butler’s column is special to The Cambrian. RanchUpdate appears quarterly. Contact the executive director of Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve at ffrp cambria.org, 927-2856, or P.O. Box 1664, Cambria 93428.

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