Category Archives: Member Blog

Nantucket Burn

By Brianna Carstens, AmeriCorps Year 19

Travel Day

Thursday, October 19th, 12:00 p.m.

Cape Cod National Seashore Fire Cache, Wellfleet, MA

For my Individual Placement, I serve with the Cape Cod National Seashore Fire Office. My main role is volunteer coordination, but sometimes I assist with prescribed burns since I have previous fire experience. On this particular Thursday, we were scheduled to travel and then assist on a prescribed burn with the Nantucket Land Bank. I reported to the Marconi Fire Cache and from there traveled by van to Hyannis with alongside FireCorps. From there we caught a ferry, and two and a half hours later arrived on Nantucket. A few people from the Land Bank picked us up from the ferry and drove us across the island to the Land Bank’s maintenance facility.  The FireCorps and I stayed the night in a renovated farmhouse on the property. That evening, we found out the Orionids Meteor Shower was happening, so after dinner a few of us went outside. We laid down in the driveway, had a beautiful view of the Milky Way, and saw the occasional shooting star.

Burn Day

Friday, October 20th, 6:27 a.m.

Land Bank Farmhouse, Nantucket, MA

I slept well at the farmhouse, and woke up to early morning light coming in through my window. I got out of bed and peered out to see the start of an amazing sunrise.

I was suddenly hit with the realization that I could see sunrise on Nantucket and the thought spurred me to get ready quickly. I got dressed and rushed outside. The farmhouse is on a piece of land that borders the ocean, so I headed down the dirt road towards the beach. As I walked the sky brightened, and just as I reached the beach the sun fully appeared. I stayed for a few minutes, trying to take in the moment, and recognize that I was truly here. It is still hard to believe that this small-town girl from Washington State made it all the way out here, but here I am, and it is moments like this that make it all seem real.

“I was suddenly hit with the realization that I could see sunrise on Nantucket and the thought spurred me to get ready quickly.”

I headed back towards the farmhouse, this time paying attention to my surroundings instead of the sky. The Land Bank owns a golf course and a bunch of grasslands adjacent to a neighborhood. The road that I had walked out separated the two. I got back to the farmhouse and geared up for the day.

I was placed on my squad, issued a radio, and assigned a ride out to the property. The task was to burn thirty acres of grasslands to promote regime change and native species propagation. Our respective squads drove out and split up. I was assigned to holding, which basically means standing at the fireline and watching the green, or area we don’t want to burn, for spot fires. We started our test fire, and since it burned well, our Burn Boss decided that we were good to go with the burn. As it intensified, so did the smoke, and the potential for spot fires. I decided to find a little bit higher ground to have better eyes on the green. As I hiked up a dune nearby, I realized our unit bordered the ocean.

” I decided to find a little bit higher ground to have better eyes on the green. As I hiked up a dune nearby, I realized our unit bordered the ocean.”

I stayed up for a while, and then swapped out for a spot on the engine that was more directly in the smoke. We rotate like this so that no one is in smoke for the whole day. The unit we were burning was covered in Bayberry and Huckleberry, both of which are oily, and give off itchy smoke. It burns your eyes and throat, and if you aren’t used to smoke, it can make you tear up and cough quite a bit. I always bring mint gum with me on burns, as it helps to counteract the effects.

“The unit we were burning was covered in Bayberry and Huckleberry, both of which are oily, and give off itchy smoke.”

Both squads continued down our line from the test fire, creating solid black thirty feet off the line. This means essentially a clean burn from the fireline to thirty feet into the unit.

Think of the unit as a box, with borders of fireline, which in this case are dirt roads. We want to increase that border, and that is why we build solid black. We do this to create strong borders before we light the middle of the unit. This gives us a nice buffer area where the burn should quickly lose intensity that is well away from the line. This process is time consuming, because we light very small sections and have them burn all the way down, and then light another section. This is done using drip torches, which are canisters filled with a mix of gas and diesel.

Once both sides had solid black, we wetlined (where we take a hose and spray in a straight line directly on the fuels) the middle of the unit and lit off of it. The middle of the unit went and burned great.

“…it is moments like this that make it all seem real.”

Overall, the burn went well. We had to shut down early due to the amount of smoke that we were emitting, but the day was still a success. We quickly gridded the burn for hotspots, loaded up, and drove back to the farmhouse. We made sure that the trucks and equipment we used were in good condition, and then we loaded up to head back to the ferry.

I had a fantastic first time on Nantucket, and I already can’t wait to go back. When I applied for this program, I never could have guessed that I would be doing prescribed fire on Nantucket, but here we are. I think that might be my favorite thing about this program. There is immense variety in our days. You can never be sure what you will end up doing week-to-week, but you can always count on a new adventure.

“When I applied for this program, I never could have guessed that I would be doing prescribed fire on Nantucket, but here we are.”

 

Edited by AmeriCorps Cape Cod Program Staff

 

It’s Going to Be a Good Year

By Jason Bertrand, AmeriCorps Year 19

On the surface, the morning of October 3rd looked like any other Tuesday morning in New England. The sun shone strong in the sky, melting the frost on a chilly 40-degree morning. However, for Twenty-six general corps members this morning was anything but ordinary. For the past month, the members have been working hard. From shellfishing to brush cutting, from toilet costumes to disaster shelters, we have been training to acquire all the skills necessary to complete a year of dedicated service to the Cape Cod community. Today marks the first day of our individual placements. Every member will get the opportunity to serve one on one with an organization, for two or three days a week, for the next ten months. As I walked out the door this morning there was a sense of excitement in the air, but also a noticeable air of nervousness. So, as I rode in the car with the a few other people with placements close to mine, I decided to reflect on the past month to distract myself from the day ahead. 

The Year 19 AmeriCorps Members arrived on Labor Day and, after spending the month of September training, they are fired up and ready to serve!

Almost a month ago to the day, thirteen strangers and I stepped foot in a house with only the mindset of making a difference in the world to connect us. We came from different backgrounds, different states, different schools; we were thirteen unique individuals. I was nervous. It felt eerily like moving in to dorms my freshman year of college, except my mom wasn’t there. It was embarrassing then and it would have been twice as embarrassing now.  It took all of an hour after we had all arrived to laugh and joke like we were long lost friends. I felt at home among a group of people I had only just met. Not soon after, we met the other general corps house and the fire corps, the results were not much different. It didn’t take long before these strangers became my friends and then my friends became like family. Learning about the horrors of ticks and poison ivy, pulling out endless vines of bittersweet, and hearing about Cape Cod’s single source aquifer for the hundredth time really helped bring us all close together. It didn’t take long after moving in for my apprehensions to disappear and be replaced by excitement. As I sat in the car this morning, reflecting on the past month, my apprehensions were once again replaced by excitement.

“As I walked out the door this morning, there was a sense of excitement in the air…”

 

This is just the first day of the beginning of the rest of the year, but I could not be more thrilled with my decision to serve on Cape Cod. Over the coming months I hope to utilize this blog to allow my fellow members to share their stories and experiences with the program. There are sure to be tough times ahead; long and physically exhausting days, but just remember “faced with adversity, I will persevere.”

Edited by AmeriCorps Cape Cod Program Staff

Canal Cleanup 2017

By Shane Dermanjian

Every April 22nd since 1970, the United States has observed Earth Day. Now, forty-seven years later in 2017, 196 countries take part in honoring the Earth on this day. How will you, alongside the global community, embrace the Earth this April 22nd?

 

Every day is Earth Day for AmeriCorps Cape Cod.

Extraordinary yet fragile, the Cape Cod environment provides us with tremendous natural beauty and wonder in our unique little corner of the Earth, and AmeriCorps Cape Cod aims to preserve that magnificence for generations to come.

In keeping mind our environmental ethos, I am happy to announce our second signature volunteer event of 2017: The 17th Annual Canal Cleanup. In partnership with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, this event will take place on Earth Day, Saturday April 22nd, 2017 from 10 AM to 2 PM. What better way to celebrate Earth Day than spending a Saturday afternoon picking up trash, taking in the sights along the Cape Cod Canal?

 

Volunteer with us!

Volunteers are encouraged to pre-register for this event, but registration is also available the day-of at the event. If interested in volunteering feel free to follow this link: https://goo.gl/forms/aGl33IOSuOiByCUy1. Volunteers can register as individuals or as group leaders. Pre-registered groups are asked to arrive by 9 AM. Be sure to bring water and weather-appropriate clothes – this event is rain or shine!

In addition to the volunteer service, the Canal Cleanup will also feature interactive booths and activities from various local, environmental groups. But wait, there’s more! Volunteers get a light breakfast and pizza for lunch, totally free!

We hope to see you at the Cape Cod Canal ready to celebrate Earth Day with AmeriCorps Cape Cod!

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If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact AmeriCorps member Shane Dermanjian at shane.dermanjian@barnstablecounty.org or call our office at (508) 375-6869.

It’s Only Been a Month?

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Written by Shane Dermanjian, Outreach AmeriCorps Member, Year 18

So it looks like I will be the author of the first blog post of Year 18. Let me tell you why, one month in, I already think this AmeriCorps program is the bee’s knees and why I feel like I am right where I want to be. I was initially hesitant to apply to any AmeriCorps program because I was unsure how I felt about leaving behind all of my friends back home. I had also originally envisioned working at a for-profit company after graduating just based off my past work experience. I had studied abroad albeit for only for three months and had a very limited knowledge base pertaining to environmental and disaster relief issues, but something in my mind clicked and I knew I had to do this program. The desire to help my community and fully immerse myself in a year of service ultimately outweighed these concerns. I drove up from home, walked into the Harborview Conference Room at the Barnstable County Complex where we all gathered on the first day, and have not looked back since.

Looking back, it did not even take the entirety of the first month to feel at home. Everyone was incredibly excited to meet each other and we all shared a common goal of wanting to make this a positive experience. On our own we had all already liked to “get things done” per the AmeriCorps motto, so it was only natural that as a team we could get even more things done. I think that the teamwork aspect of my time on the Cape so far deserves the most attention. Even while sitting in Harborview for training, I still feel like we are learning as a team. If I were to forget a certain aspect of training while in the field, I am absolutely certain that another team member would have my back and come through where I could not and vice-versa. An AmeriCorps team is no ordinary one. Again, we all share the desire to “get things done”. This community-minded focus moves us in the right direction not only to help our community on the Cape, but to make our own little Bourne house community the best it could possibly be. This is why I feel at home and why I look forward to seeing the face of each of my housemates every day–we all genuinely care and that is hard to come by.

Improving Water on Cape Cod

A great way to reduce the effects of stormwater is through absorbing the nutrient rich runoff in a rain garden. Rain gardens facilitate groundwater recharge, thereby reducing the stress put on water bodies through preventing excess nutrients from being carried into the water bodies during storm events.

AmeriCorps member, Ben Howard in partnership with the Brewster Ponds Coalition developed the following walkthrough document to encourage community members to seek permission to install rain gardens on strategic properties. The document helps the citizen to navigate all the steps and forms that make up the Request for Determination of Applicability process when making landscape changes in potentially ecologically sensitive areas. While some details are specific to Brewster, the guide should prove useful to citizens of other communities, too.

View document HERE

Highlands Fest 2016: Spreading Wings

Highlands Fest Poster (3)Saturday, June 25 10AM to 1PM. Free.

Join us for this year’s Highlands Fest! The theme, “Spreading Wings,” is inspired by Highlands Center’s location on the sea cliffs of the North Atlantic Flyway. Millions of birds rely on this majestic slice of the Outer Cape to breed, feed, and thrive, migrating over the salt marshes and windblown dunes and plains. “Spreading Wings” also captures the symbolism of the Highlands Center partner’s opportunity to take flight and flourish, and mutual interest to inspire and educate people of all ages, abilities, and ethnicities about the important role of birds in our ecosystem. These themes will be expressed through ceramic sculpture, storytelling, mural painting, dance, music, and education.

Highlands Fest is an annual celebration of the Highlands Center at Cape Cod National Seashore by its partner organizations: Barnstable County AmeriCorps Cape Cod, Cape Cod National Seashore, Payomet Performing Arts Center, Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, Sustainable CAPE, and Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill.

Come soar with us and our action packed afternoon! This year’s line-up includes:
• Payomet – Music, magic, and circus
• Cape Cod National Seashore & AmeriCorps Cape Cod – Mural painting
• Sustainable Cape – Seedling plantings
• Castle Hill – Clay bird creation
• Mass Audubon – Bird walk and talk

Highlands Center is located at 43 Old Dewline Road in North Truro.

Keeping Your Blowhole Above Water

Written by Britta Dornfeld, AmeriCorps Member placed at the Massachusetts Alternative Septic Systems Testing Center.

December 17, 2015, had been rainy and cool. I’d been outside taking water measurements all day with my Individual Placement, and the damp chill seeped into my bones. So when the call came late in the afternoon to go back outside to release dolphins five minutes after I’d finally gotten comfortable and dry, I was less than enthused.

Still, the dolphins needed help, so I headed to Scusset Beach in Sandwich to help with the evening release. Despite the unpleasant weather, the rescue organization, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), was well prepared to keep all the AmeriCorps members helping with the release cozy, dry, and safe. As soon as we were all assembled, Jori, the AmeriCorps member placed at IFAW, got us suited up in dry suits, which reminded me of the suits that the Ghostbusters wore. Nothing, no water, no ghosts, and no sand, was going to get at me!

All the AmeriCorps rescuers in our super fancy dry suits!
All the AmeriCorps rescuers in our super fancy dry suits!

Once I got the dry suit on, my mood picked up. I was going to help release three dolphins — how many people could say they’ve done that? We prepared the beach, putting down large mats to set the dolphins on before we brought them into the sea. I couldn’t help to think how awesome this experience was as I tromped through the rain to place the mats on the dark beach.

Finally, the time came to release the dolphins. There was a single female, and what appeared to be a mother-calf pair. We placed the dolphins into special dolphin stretchers and loaded them onto custom-made dolphin carts to transport them safely and comfortably to the beach. Once the dolphins were assembled, teams were assigned to each of them and the release began. My team of eight worked with the mother dolphin. We picked up her stretcher and walked out into the ocean until we were waist deep in water. We waited, allowing her and the calf to acclimate to the water, before removing the stretcher and letting her swim away.

This is what dolphins look like pre-release. Since this rescue occurred at night, a good photo was not taken. Photo provided by IFAW, from their archives.

The most stressful part of the rescue was making sure the dolphin’s blowhole stayed above water the entire time we had her in the stretcher. Every time a wave came in, we had to lift her up to ensure her top stayed nice and dry until she acclimated and could lift her head on her own. In a way, it reminded me of my day. I’d been struggling to keep my own mood up throughout the day, but all I’d needed was help from a few friends (human and otherwise) to get my attitude back in the right place. Sometimes keeping a positive attitude about service in AmeriCorps can be difficult. When you’re struggling, you need to remember that this team of members is here with you to support you and help you keep your spirits high and dry.

            Please note all activities described in this article were conducted under a federal stranding agreement between IFAW and the National Marine Fisheries Service under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Ceeeelebrate Earth Day, Come On! Help Clean the Canal on April 23rd, 2016

Written by Rosie Manzo, Bourne House Member Leader

How will you celebrate Earth Day this year?

Why not come on down to the Cape Cod Canal and celebrate with Barnstable County AmeriCorps Cape Cod and the US Army Corps of Engineers? On April 23rd from 10am to 2pm, our organization is teaming up with the US Army Corps of Engineers for our 16th Annual Canal Clean Up event.

Canal Cleanup Collage

We Need YOUR Help! Yes, YOU!

Volunteers are needed for various projects, the majority of which will be picking up trash along the canal to keep it beautiful for the many people who walk, bike, and fish there! Volunteer groups who contact us prior to the event will be assigned to other projects along the canal, including building pollinator boxes, expanding a butterfly garden, and maintaining the brush around a herring run.

Volunteer registration will begin at 9:30am at the Buzzards Bay Recreation Area (parking behind Krua Thai, 100 Main Street Buzzards Bay). Volunteers are provided with a light breakfast, pizza for lunch, and all the supplies needed for each project, including gloves and bags for trash. The event will kick off at 10am and end at 2pm, with entertainment like educational booths and activities for all ages!

If you’re interested in volunteering as a group or have any questions, contact americorpsmembers17@gmail.com or 508-375-6906– we hope to see you there!

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The Beauty of Cape Cod

Written by Matthew Moser, AmeriCorps member placed at the Dennis Conservation Trust

I knew where I was going when I joined Barnstable County AmeriCorps Cape Cod. I knew there was going to be tons of water all around me and beaches around every corner of the land. However, what I didn’t know was how magically beautiful Cape Cod was going to be.

Bird in fligth

Wave Collage
Waves at Coast Guard Beach, Eastham.

The first day I arrived at the Wellfleet House, some of us went out to visit a pond not far from our new home. The water was peaceful, except for some disturbance made by swimmers, and the view was just breathtaking. I have yet to realize that there was far more where that came from.

Highland Lighthouse

Sunset Collage
Sunsets in Wellfleet and Eastham.

In September, ACC had its first retreat of the year. We were housed at a Cape Cod National Seashore house, not far from Coast Guard Beach. The next morning, I went for a walk on the beach. The waves gently crashed against the shore, birds were hanging out in the water, and even the seals seemed to enjoy the early morning sun. The setting was perfect.

Dennis Oyster Farm
Dennis oyster farm.
Seals at CCNS
Seals at the Cape Cod National Seashore.

 

National Volunteer Week: “Protect, Preserve, and Prepare Our Park”

Written by Rosie Manzo, Bourne House Member Leader

Barnstable County AmeriCorps Cape Cod teams up with Cape Cod National Seashore for 100th Anniversary!

National Volunteer Week 2016 is approaching fast!

That means we’re looking to encourage anyone and everyone to seek out ways to become engaged in their communities. Living on the Cape – you’re in luck! AmeriCorps Cape Cod is collaborating with the Cape Cod National Seashore for the National Park Service’s Centennial and to help get the seashore up and running for this coming summer season.

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The week kicks off on Monday, April 11th, 2016 in Wellfleet at various sites including Coast Guard Beach, Nauset Light Beach, and Marconi Beach. Tuesday and Wednesday the service will head to Provincetown at the Province Lands Visitor Center and then to Head of the Meadow, Race Point, and Herring Cove Beach. Towards the end of the week, volunteers will serve in Truro at the Highlands Center and in Eastham at the Salt Pond Visitors Center. These projects will include a variety of work, such as painting, weeding parking lots, planting beach grass, installing fencing, and trail maintenance.

At the conclusion of the week, on Friday, April 15th, the National Seashore and Barnstable County AmeriCorps Cape Cod will host a Volunteer Recognition Event at the Salt Pond Visitor Center with food and games as a thank you to all those who volunteered their time throughout the week!

This National Volunteer Week project is made possible through a grant written by the Barnstable County Resource Development Office and funded by the Massachusetts Service Alliance and Barnstable County. 

NVW Blog Logo

Sign up for volunteer shifts on Eventbrite.

There are lots to choose from! 

If you have any questions, contact courtney_butler@nps.gov or brittany.quaglieri@barnstablecounty.org.

We hope to see you there!