Stories of Service: Andrew Richards

As Virginia’s AmeriCorps Ambassador for April 2018, Andrew is excited to share his story and show what it is like to serve as an AmeriCorps member. A member serving with the Virginia State Parks – DCR AmeriCorps Program, Andrew was born in Nebraska but moved to Virginia’s coast when he was young. “My parents were high achievers and always pushed for more from my brother and I, which I believe instilled within me a strong desire to always seek more.” He says, “Through my professional career, once I discover a way to make more of an impact — I can be quick to make a change. I found AmeriCorps when I needed it most and it has brought my life more satisfaction and laughter than anything else I’ve ever done.”
Andrew explains, “AmeriCorps is a chance to give back to the community and be the change I wish to see in this world. I never stop meeting new and engaging people in different and exciting places and only wish more people could have the experience I have had with AmeriCorps.”
IMG_2069On Taking Some Heat
Andrew reflects on his recent experience learning how to conduct prescribed burns in the State Parks: “The Virginia Service and Conservation Corps (VSCC) can be summarized by the three main objectives of its members: trail maintenance and building, invasive species management, and performing prescribed burns. When you join the VSCC you are given the opportunity to study and become a Firefighter Type 2 which means you can participate in controlled wildland fire operations. On a typical burn you can find yourself firing a line with an ignition source, controlling the fire on the fireline-the boundary it mustn’t cross, or extinguishing what embers may remain at the end of the event. It can be difficult to remember all the reasons why controlled fires are performed when it feels like you’re in the woods with your friends playing with fire and giant water hoses.
McLeodOn Making a Path
“Trail building is a relatively new skill that is ever-evolving. Its inception in the United States can be considered the creation of the National Trails System in 1968 which brought us The Appalachian Trail. As a member of VSCC, we strive to construct and maintain sustainable trails because they minimize the impact on natural resources and systems, require less maintenance, and are ultimately more fun for the user. In other words, conserving natural resources while providing for places of recreation. In order to accomplish this we have an arsenal of hand and power tools as well as machines. However, it’s hard to replace the feeling one gets digging in the dirt with their own hands, creating something that may last for decades.”
Autumn OliveOn Combating Invaders
“Invasive species management is accomplished by creating and following a management plan. Knowing what to treat and when and how to treat it is crucial. What you discover is that most of the invasive species that are out-competing our native species were brought here as ornamental plants. If we introduced them, we can remove them too. However, it usually requires more work. Some species of shrubs have roots that dig upwards of 9 feet into the soil while some vines grow as tall and long as their supporting structures. Control methods change depending on what is being treated and the opportunity for learning more about plant biology is ever-present.”
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