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“Who wouldn’t love this?” A day with a WCC trail crew

An Americorps member stands with her back to the camera, cutting a fallen tree with a chainsaw, with sawdust spraying out.

Sawdust sprays from a chainsaw as Americorps member Sarah Wingard cuts through a log that's fallen across a Tiger Mountain trail.

When you ask AmeriCorps member Andy McCurdy what he likes about being part of a Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) trail crew, he breaks into a huge grin and says, “It’s fun! It is so much fun! Who wouldn’t love this?”

Andy is part of a five-person crew serving with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources on recreational trails in the I-90 corridor between Issaquah and North Bend. On this day, the crew is doing log-outs in Tiger Mountain State Forest near Issaquah, where they hike in with chainsaws, axes, loppers, and other tools to clear the trail of blowdowns (fallen trees). 

Americorps member Alexis Massey works to clear another fallen tree from the trail.

Log-outs can be hazardous, both because of the trees themselves and from the equipment used to clear them. The crew, which is trained in chainsaw use, takes special precautions when using chainsaws. This includes protective gear like hard hats, eye and ear protection, and chaps made of tightly-woven fabric designed to protect a sawyer’s legs from chainsaw cuts. Whenever a chainsaw is in use, another crew member acts as a swamper, watching for dangerous situations. Every fallen tree involves a discussion of the best approach: how much of the tree needs to be cut to clear the trail? Where will the log fall or roll after it’s cut? If the sawyer can’t be uphill of the cut, where can they safely stand to avoid injury from the log dropping or rolling? Is there anything overhead that might fall while the cutting is happening?

Americorps member and sawyer Sarah Wingard cuts through a fallen tree, while swamper Andy McCurdy watches for potential safety hazards.

The safety-first approach leads to trust and a strong working relationship among crew members. “Working as a team and working as cohesively as possible is a really important part of WCC, and one of the most fun parts is the crew environment,” says Sarah Wingard, one of Andy’s teammates who’s in her second year with WCC. “You meet a lot of people who are interested and passionate about the same things that you’re passionate about. My crew last year was in Olympic National Park and we still talk regularly, even though it’s been a year since we’ve worked together.”

AmeriCorps members serving with our Washington Conservation Corps restore critical habitat, build trails, and respond to disasters such as floods. They partner with over 100 nonprofits and government agencies. Interested in joining the WCC as an AmeriCorps member? We accept applications through May 30 for our summer positions (June through early September), and applications for our 11-month positions (October through September) open in July. Visit our member positions page to learn about our application process.