Twenty years ago, a group of students studying landscape architecture at Ohio State University took part in what has become a program for those wanting to ensure the vitality of our national parks system.
Chris Papakirk, Gabe Hays, Mark Vysoky and Brent King came to redwood country, volunteering over their summer vacation at Redwood National and State Parks to create and improve trails.
The four were part of a Volunteers in Parks program their late professor, Jot Carpenter, worked out in 1993 with then-parks superintendent Bill Ehorn. Along with six other graduate students, they all lodged at the old Klamath Air Force Station.
Last month, they came back to see how their work has stood up.
"We had always planned to do a 10-year reunion," said Gabe Hays. "Life got busy and when 20 years was coming up we said, 'We're going to make an effort.'"
The four reunited in the parks, and attended local events including a Chamber of Commerce mixer where they were introduced to an appreciative audience. All in all, they had a blast.
"I can't express how thankful we were to be so graciously recognized by the Chamber and Redwood National Parks Association," said Gabe. "It was a welcome back to a place that is very, very special to us. And we plan on coming back."
In an e-mail written after the reunion, Gabe recounted the work 20 years ago and their recent return visit:
Back then, "We were were given room and board and federal drivers' licenses in exchange for our planning and design services," Gabe wrote.
"This year marked 20 years since our incredible summer in the redwoods. Our work included trail design, national register drawings, topographical surveys, GIS studies, visitor surveys, invasive species removal, educational sessions, spotted owl surveys, corridor studies, overlooks and parking lot/trail head design.
"For those of us who returned, we have been blessed to see that much of our efforts contributed to the park.
"Brent King and I worked on trail design for newly acquired old growth forest that is now the the Elk Meadow/Trillium Falls Trails. Along with Paul Corriel, we rediscovered the Trillium Falls and the 'Chimney Tree' for the park trails experience. Our group also designed bike trails and recommended the interpretive platform for the Elk Creek pedestrian bridge.
"Chris Papakirk did measured drawings of the historic Lyons Ranch that, according to park biologist, Aida Parkinson, were used in the National Register of Historic Places nomination.
"Mark Vysoky worked on the Crescent City Beach estuary overlook and trail as well as a study for a Crescent City beach causeway. The redwood information center parking lot and trail expansion were also part of his duties.
"We were excited to see the salmon fishing and all of the improvements that the Yurok Tribe has made in the Requa area where we stayed. We were invited to a ceremony 20 years ago there and revisited the site on the Klamath.
"Most surprising and impressive was the demolition and restoration of the old Requa air force base (site) where we stayed.
"We are all licensed professional landscape architects now with our own practices. The experience that we had here has contributed greatly to how we approach projects, especially park planning and design. Our collective experience spans over 20 states across the country."
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