AmeriCorps clearing trails for Marine Education Center - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

AmeriCorps clearing trails for Marine Education Center

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OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) -

AmeriCorps workers are wrapping-up a trail making project in Ocean Springs.

They've spent the past several weeks removing Katrina debris from the University of Southern Mississippi owned Cedar Point property.

The AmeriCorps team helped create a series of trails in the woods adjacent to the Gulf Coast Research Lab's Cedar Point facilities.

Building the trails is the first phase of preparing that site for the construction of a new "Marine Education Center".

For the AmeriCorps volunteers, it was plenty of hard work and a rewarding experience.

More than six years after the hurricane, work crews remove Katrina debris from the Cedar Point woods.

"We had to go further and further out to find and remove more material," said AmeriCorps team leader Jonathan Chan, who has directed the trail clearing task.

"Both sides of the trail had its own amount of trash. Like we found three mattresses out here, we found a water filter and we found decks," explained a young man from West Covina, CA.

Carol Hazlett admits it's hard work. But she and her team members can see the difference they're making.

"Just the difference from when we got here to how it looks now, it's just a huge transformation," she said.

Seattle's Esther Ruggles learned quickly how to maneuver the four-wheel-drive "gator" through the woods.

Ruggles said along with hauling broken boards, the work hits home when more personal items are found.

"Here I found a school calendar that was from 2005. And I was like, this is actually Katrina debris," Ruggles recalled.

The trails will be incorporated into an "educational experience" once the new Marine Education Center is built here.

"It'll probably be two or three more years until the Marine Education Center is actually constructed. But as we develop plans for the Marine Ed Center and what it's going to be doing. Certainly these trail systems and the natural environment are going to be a critical part of that learning experience," said Gulf Coast Research Lab director, Dr. Jeffrey Lotz.

"It's really awesome to get into nature and be able to clear trails that everyone else can come and enjoy what we're doing," said Dayna Diskin, an AmeriCorps worker from Michigan.

The workers said it's especially rewarding to know their efforts are laying the foundation for a project with long term educational benefits.

Adwoa Agyepong, from Lowell, MA, looks forward to the future.

"I think it would be cool if like 20 years in the future I came and brought my kids and said, 'Hey, this classroom is what I helped build'," Agyepong said.

The AmeriCorps workers have removed tons of storm debris. Over the past four weeks, they've filled six industrial size dumpsters with all the material pulled from the woods.

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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