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National Tree Climbing Program


Corps Spruce Up Heceta Trees

When the lighthouse was built more than a century ago, Heceta Head looked far different than today. Old pictures show the headland devoid of trees-a salt spray meadow carpeting the hillsides between the two lighthouse keepers' residences and the Heceta Head Lighthouse. Over the years, a dense stand of Sitka spruce took over, blocking the view of the lighthouse from the single house that remains and from the state park on the beach below.

By then end of next month, that picture postcard view should be restored. The stands of trees will remain, but it's being thinned and reshaped by an energetic group of arborists in training from the Forest Service's Angell Job Corps Conservation Center in Yachats.

Although they're accustomed to working high above ground, this job offers an especially lofty perspective--working in trees at the edge of a hillside with the ocean and rocky shoreline hundreds of feet below. The 16 young men and women in the urban forestry class say they've enjoyed working in one of the most scenic spots on the Oregon Coast, even on days when wind and rain descend on the headland, causing trees to sway.

The workers have so far cleared out more than 30 trees, widening an existing view corridor and thinning some trees to make the lighthouse visible through the branches. When the work is finished, occupants of the lighthouse keeper's residence, now a bed and breakfast, will be able to see the light, says Sean Stephens, the program's lead instructor. The Job Corps have already opened a partial view of the lighthouse from the porch of the house.

Because the trees blocked the view of the lighthouse from the beach, some visitors to Devil's Elbow State Park didn't even realize the lighthouse was so near, Stephens says. He adds that the hike to the lighthouse will now be safer thanks to the removal of dead limbs and trees that might fall on a windy day.

It's not a job for people who are afraid of heights. Stephens and his assistant, Rod Smith, tell perspective students that if heights make them uncomfortable, they should look into one of the other Job Corps training programs. And those who come into the program thinking they're going to spend all of their time in and aerial playground quickly learn that the job involves much more grunt work, Stephens says.

Still, those who complete the 10-month course should have no trouble finding a job, he says. Not only do the students learn hands-on skill, they also spend time in the classroom learning about trees. And like all Job Corps Programs, this one focuses on basic life skills, such as showing up for work on time, and getting along with the boss and customers. Trained arborists with that kind of work ethic are much in demand, Stephens says.

The Angell Job Corps Center is one of four in the nation offering the urban forestry program. For more information, call (541) 547-3137.

By Larry Bacon. Excerpted from The Register-Guard, December 5, 1999.

For more information, contact Rae Watson at rewatson@fs.fed.us or (541) 767-5717

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