Local mountains were hidden by smoke as ash fell in Porterville on Saturday.
However National Clean-up Day remained scheduled at the Success Lake campground, where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) staff worked with volunteers, students, and service groups from Porterville.
Students from Monache High School ESA, and other local high schools and middle schools volunteered to work during the clean-up.
Local teenagers Wren, Phoenix, Falcon, and Hawk Higgins helped plant Aleppo pine trees.
They were all upset about the fires, saying it’s sad that all the trees are burning and the smoke has stopped them from doing all the normal activities that are available.
“All the people who live above Springville were evacuated. You can usually see the mountains from here at Lake Success, but you can’t see anything,” said Phoenix.
Kyle Driver worked with his friends Ciera Carvajal and Melody Rodriquez, who are all seniors from MHS ESA, and helped spread out piles of decomposed granite on the Success Lake campsites to improve the surfaces. He said helping out and doing the community service was a lot of fun, as well as they were learning about the local environment.
Their Army Corps of Engineers said the youth did an amazing job amazing job spreading out the granite, had a wonderful attitude and were extremely helpful.
Army Corps of Engineers staff and maintenance crew said they’d planted about 40 trees with help from the volunteers. One of the engineers said the Aleppo pines are low maintenance and don’t need a lot of water, which is perfect for the climate. They all said it had been a pretty easy day.
Charlie Mauldin, U.S. ACE Success Lake Operations Project Manager
said they look forward to having the volunteers for annual National Clean Up Day.
“Things have been different lately, and we planned for a big group this year.”
The volunteers were given, T-shirts, and work experience certificates.
But it’s always a win-win deal for the Army Corps of Engineers and local visitors get to come back and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
National Clean Up Day also helps get the corps mission out, and they always want to have volunteers for their projects at the campground.
Felipe Martinez, Maria Padilla-Leon and Nick Leon from the Porterville Exchange Club had a Snow Cones booth and said they were all pleased to be there, adding they were thankful for the volunteers and all the hard work they’ve done.
“There’ve been at least 30 volunteers,” said Leon, and Martinez quipped “We had more people than last year!”
“This is a really good experience to help the community,” said Lilly Driver, from MHS ESA, “to get out and meet new people and learn new skills.”
Dusty Wilson and Tom Lemus from the White River Prospectors always enjoy being at the annual event at the Success campgrounds, but Wilson said he was suffering from the bad air. “We really appreciate the people who showed up. My eyes and my nose are burning. But we love getting together either at the river or here and showing the kids how to pan for gold.”
“We like spending the time with our group, and we appreciate the meal and the prizes,” said Lemus. “It’s really a nice get-together, especially the people cleaning up and having a good time. Keeping people caring for the community.”
Sylvia Guerrero, USACE, said, “It’s been tough with COVID, but we are glad to have this event and the projects that the volunteers completed, and everyone had a good time.”
Everyone enjoyed watching the door prizes being handed out by USACE staff as a thank-you to all participants.
Camp Host, Nancy Worster said, “It was a good turnout considering the air quality. And it’s great that people are out and getting involved.
And no one went hungry.”