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One Fire Plust Torrential Rains Equals Opportunity?!?
This is certainly not the mathematics taught in the grammar school classroom, but for Geoffrey Smith of the Cleveland National Forest (CNF), this is a calculation reserved for the ingenuity of potential VolunTourists.
About 45 minutes east of Downtown San Diego and nestled amongst the hill country of the southern ranges of the Santa Ana, Palomar, and Laguna mountains, lies a 567,000 acre spread known as the Cleveland National Forest (CNF). Established in 1908 as a National Forest by President Theodore Roosevelt, the land originally bore the riches of hunting and trapping for nomadic populations such as the Kumeyaay Indians. Now, it is a haven for 19 threatened and endangered species of plants and animals, as well as those seeking a respite from their 2.8million neighbors in the Greater San Diego Area.
Over the last two years, however, the word “refuge” is considered a poor descriptor for CNF as the fates have taken a rather harsh interest in the region. In October 2003 a devastating fire ravaged this eastern section of San Diego County leaving many “black eyes” throughout this thriving landscape. The rain gods sent a different message during the Winter of 2004 as heavy downpours and localized flooding have melted hiking trails and hillsides into mudflows.
Ironically, according to our “professor” of higher math, Mr. Smith, this is good news, if you are prepared to be of service. “Black eyes” will green as the rain-saturated soil produces new growth. Likewise, with the assistance of VolunTourists, reforestation will take root in designated areas and hiking trails will garner the support of pick-axes, hoes, shovels, and rakes. Sturdy backs, of course, are not included, but absolutely necessary to see that these projects reach fruition.
But why is this so important?
Tuesdays 10am ET/7am PT
At roughly 500m (1,500ft) above sea level at its lowest point and nearly 2,000m (6,000ft) at its highest point, Monument Peak, CNF plays a very important role in the region’s ecological development. The loss of timber in CNF can wreak havoc on the ecosystems below. CNF acts as a natural barrier between the mountain silt to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The role of VolunTourists, therefore, is much more than simply greening and maintenance for a ravaged CNF. Their participation through the planting of seedlings in bare spots to revitalize these areas will also serve the dual purpose of protecting estuaries, lagoons, and other low-lying areas between the mountains and the ocean. Whether they express it or not, the porpoises and other sea life will be extremely grateful – not to mention a few surfers in La Jolla and Ocean Beach.
The experience with CNF is not all work, however. There are spectacular views, amazing woodland critters to photograph, and the scent of fresh pine and indigenous flora to whet the sense-appetite. Education is also at a premium for those who like to broaden their understanding of history and culture. You will hear stories of the peoples that inhabited the region and learn about their travel patterns that took them north, south, east, and west in a region that was once Mexico.
For the early risers, you can amply fill a morning at CNF with the service activities and Ranger expositions – a perfect option for convention and meeting groups with an available time slot. For the group travelers, you may want to make a day of it and sneak out to Julian for some fresh apple pie and homemade cinnamon ice cream. Calories will definitely be warranted after a day of service work and hiking!
To create an experience for your group of VolunTourists, contact Geoffrey Smith by email at:
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