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Department of Environment and Conservation

Stone Masonry Links Past and Present at Pickett
By Alan Wasik and Meredith Mullen


Pickett State Park in Jamestown matched the present with the past by teaming AmeriCorps*NCCC volunteers with former Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) members for some unique classes in the art of stone masonry.

Former CCCers and brothers, Jim and Oscar Odum, along with local masons Craig and Johnny Wheeler, taught the classes. They gave the volunteers "hands on" training in the techniques of cutting and laying stone.

The AmeriCorps*NCCC teams went on to complete five stone projects which used approximately 26 tons of flagstone purchased from a quarry located between Jamestown and Pall Mall. These projects included a patio which corrected an erosion problem near the old ranger station, three walls, and two culverts. These are examples of tying the new stonework of the AmeriCorps to the original work of the CCC. Within a few years, the newly laid stone will be stained by weather and the nearby oak trees to match the old.

Craig and Johnny Wheeler, cousins who learned their trade from surviving CCC stone masons, say they are impressed with the volunteers’ hard work and desire to learn the trade. They both indicated that the stone work of both the CCC and the AmeriCorps will be here till the end of time.

Not only did the volunteers learn stonework, they were also treated to insights about the history of the park and the CCC. Dave Hassler, former CCCer at the Pickett camps, joined the Odums to give the AmeriCorps*NCCC workers information about the early days in the CCC and how it has affected their lives. They talked about their CCC work which included building roads and trails, stringing telephone lines, fighting forest fires, and planting trees. They also talked about their living conditions and the $30 monthly salary they received, $25 of which was required to be sent home to their families.

Pickett State Park isn’t the only park to benefit from volunteer work by AmeriCorps members: this fall and winter, three Tennessee State Parks received rejuvenation projects from the national organization which takes its roots from a well known federal project of the New Deal days of the 1930s and 1940s, the CCC.

AmeriCorps*NCCC volunteers are involved in community projects similar to their predecessors, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) who were the original "Tree Army and Soil Soldiers" who initially developed many of our state and national parks with skill and craftsmanship that has lasted for over 60 years.

Today, the AmeriCorps*NCCC volunteers are following in the CCC's footsteps by completing projects that will benefit our parks for future generations.

The parks fortunate enough to receive AmeriCorps*NCCC teams were Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tims Ford State Park and Pickett State Park. Each 11-member team completed a variety of projects including trail construction and repair, constructing backcountry campsites and the clearing of areas damaged by snow and ice storms.

One project that may have earned the AmeriCorps*NCCC their own title of "Tree Army and Soil Soldiers" involved the planting of native plants and trees that were purchased through the Tennessee State Parks "Iris Fund" license plate program.

Many people are impressed with the hard work that the Corps members perform, including Bob Rees, park manager at Tims Ford State Park, who describes their work ethic as being wonderful, energetic, driven, focused and dynamic.

The AmeriCorps volunteers not only work in the parks, but they also contribute a lot to the surrounding communities. Part of AmeriCorps NCCC's mission is to participate in special projects in the communities that they are serving, for both public relations and personal growth reasons. The teams worked in local schools and nursing homes in addition to their 40-hour work week at the parks.

"I have received a lot of positive feedback about their work and how it has impacted the local community," Bob Rees adds.

In addition to their community projects, the team at Pickett helped the park staff build a parade float and participated in the Jamestown Christmas Parade. They also became regulars at the local Jamestown High School basketball games along with some of the park staff.

The parks and their staff benefit from the examples of teamwork and diversity the volunteers provide. The Corps members consist of young men and women from all across the United States. They range in age from 18 to 24 years and represent many ethnic backgrounds.

The AmeriCorps teams provide a source of free labor to the parks. Their 11-member teams are able to complete large projects, something which is sometimes difficult for many smaller maintenance departments in state parks. Each park provides living accommodations for the workers, which can be easily accomplished in the late fall and winter when some park facilities are normally closed.

The AmeriCorps members also benefit from their experiences in the parks. The Fall Creek and Pickett teams spent their first week in the park in training and orientation. Classes were taught in landscaping, trail construction, chainsaw safety and stone masonry.

Corps members were given a taste of the local culture with some mountain music and an old-time square dance. Bob Fulcher, regional interpretive specialist for East Tennessee, organized the square dance and performed fiddle and banjo tunes unique only to the Cumberland Plateau.

The teams were also treated to a rock climbing seminar at the Chimney Rock formation near Pickett State Park, taught by Ray Cutcher, a park ranger stationed at Fall Creek Falls State Park. Andrew York, park ranger at the Alvin C. York Historic Park, met with Corps members and talked to them about his famous father and what it was like growing up in the Wolf River Valley.

The staff at all three parks included the AmeriCorps members in their employee functions and dinners, making them part of their park families.

The AmeriCorps NCCC has been a great success in Tennessee State Parks and it is hoped that the program can be expanded and continued into the future. All who have worked with these young people over the past several months agree that they have worked hard and will leave behind a legacy to be admired for 50 years, just as the CCC did.

To contact AmeriCorps, call 1-800-942-2677.

For more information about Pickett State Park, call 931-879-5821.

(At Pickett State Park in Jamestown, Alan Wasik is park manager and Meredith Mullen is a park ranger.)


What Is AmeriCorps*NCCC?

The National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) is a part of AmeriCorps, the network of national service programs that provide opportunties for full-time service in exchange for education awards. In AmeriCorps*NCCC, a 10-month program, members serve on teams and live in a campus environment. They work to complete service projects in the areas of environmental conservation, education, public safety and other community needs. Upon completion of service, members receive a $4,725 education award in the form of a voucher.

Updated July 1, 1999; Send comments to Department of Environment and Conservation.


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