CAMPTON, NH, June 14, 2017 The Saco Ranger District recently partnered with key Mount Washington Valley businesses and organizations to renovate housing for transitioning soldiers from active service to civilian life through the Veteran Conservation Corps (VCC). The White Mountain National Forest is partnering with the Department of Defense in a Career Skills Program to offer internships in land management to transitioning soldiers. Initiated by Developed Recreation Manager Edward Wright and Deputy District Ranger Nathan Fry, both of whom are military veterans, the VCC program will host transitioning veterans for 120-days and train them in various aspects of Natural Resource land management.
A requirement of the program is that the White Mountain National Forest provide lodging to the program participants during their stay on the Forest. In looking for the best on-Forest option, the District looked to the administrative headquarters on the Bartlett Experimental Forest. Known as “The Lodge,” this Civilian Conservation Corps-era structure has five bed rooms, a dining room, living room, and kitchen. The Saco Ranger District had previously used the Bartlett Lodge for seasonal employee housing, but discontinued use approximately ten years ago. With limited resources on hand for much needed renovation, the Saco Ranger District reached out to a variety of partners to assist to them in getting the Lodge ready for the veterans.
The Home Depot Foundation provided significant grant funding to replace the kitchen cabinets, appliances, and flooring along with other building supplies and furnishings. In addition, Home Depot employees from the North Conway store spent a day to painting the interior of the house, laying flooring, and cleaning up the yard. Over 15 Home Depot employees participated in that work day while Flatbread Pizza Company, Applebee’s of North Conway, and Bart’s Deli and General Store provided the volunteers with food and drinks.
Additional volunteer work was donated by Gary Gustafson who installed the kitchen cabinets and Habitat for Humanity Volunteers who completed various finish carpentry in the house. Electrical and plumbing work was completed by Sean Maggs, Maggs Electric and Tom Smith, Vernon E. Smith & Son Plumbing, respectively.
The Bartlett Lodge opened for the Veteran’s Conservation Corps Crew on May 28th. “We are so grateful for the immense community effort and support in renovating the Lodge for these soldiers,” said Jim Innes, Saco District Ranger.
Three soldiers will spend four months on the White Mountain NF working with specialists in the field in recreation, forestry, hydrology, and wildlife. The program also includes assistance with the federal hiring process including resume writing and interview skills. The White Mountain NF will also conduct outreach within the Forest Service to help place participants. This Veteran’s Conservation Corp program will provide a model that can be applied nationally to assist transitioning soldiers interested in working in land management.