Our network

University of the Pacific students take on River of Skulls for Army Corps of Engineers | Environment

Title (Max 100 Characters)

University of the Pacific students take on River of Skulls for Army Corps of Engineers
University of the Pacific students take on River of Skulls for Army Corps of Engineers

50 first-year, transfer and international students volunteered for National Public Lands Day

Arianna Visscher ’20 grabbed the power drill, pulled the trigger and drove the bit into the plank that would be fastened to metal standards for a bench along the River of Skulls Nature Trail, just below the dam at New Hogan Lake outside of Valley Springs.

“It’s nice to see this in action rather than just on paper,” said the University of the Pacific biology and art major planning to go into scientific illustrating and a team leader who helped organize the annual New Student Community Service Trip. “The hands-on thing is my thing.”

Shane Nguyen ’21 enjoys being in the outdoors and the trip was an outlet for that.

“I like to go out and explore, and I like good trails,” said the biochemistry major. “And now I’m building a trail. … Today I feel like I did something meaningful.”

Saturday was National Public Lands Day and the fourth year students new to Pacific have volunteered in an event organized by the Center for Community Involvement and New Student and Family Programs. This year saw an increase in international students thanks to Carmen Huntar, an adviser with International Programs and Services, who encouraged the students to participate. The 50 or so first-year, transfer and international students fixed benches, raked debris from trails and helped to repair a portion of the River of Skulls Nature Trail along the Calaveras River that was washed out over the past year. (The name of the trail comes from Calaveras, Spanish for “skulls.”) Other groups, including local Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, picked up trash, broadcast wild flower seeds and cleaned up driftwood along the lake’s shoreline.

The results are significant. Michael Wright, a ranger for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and volunteer coordinator for the event, said the students saved rangers about 75 hours of work in just 90 minutes.

“We did really, really good work today,” said Wright. “We really do appreciate the students coming out to help.”

There was more to the event than just work. It gave students new to Pacific a chance to meet other students they might not come in contact with during their time at Pacific, get to know their new roommates, and learn about other opportunities, such as volunteering at St. Mary’s Dining Room, Boggs Tract Community Farm or tutoring.

“The New Student Community Trip is an opportunity for incoming first-year students, transfers and international students to go beyond the Pacific community to make an impact in the larger community, while creating friendships, getting to know each other and meet other students,” said Erin Rausch, director of Pacific’s Center for Community Involvement. “What these student have in common is a shared value to serve, and for some that will help them find their place at Pacific. … It’s really important for students to make a connection early in their college careers so that they will persist, not just at Pacific, but after they graduate, as well.”

“Today I feel as if I did something important,” Nguyen said. “It definitely boosts my confidence and my ability to talk with people. I was shy before, but not anymore.”

The students’ work serves a larger purpose. New Hogan Lake provides flood protection for Stockton and water for irrigation, drinking and hydroelectric power. The lake falls under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one of several federal agencies working on National Public Lands Day with the National Environmental Education Foundation, the nonprofit organization charted by Congress in 1990 to partner with the Environmental Protection Agency to promote environmental literacy nationwide. More than 200,000 people participated last year at 2,600 sites across the nation to provide $18 million in improvements to public lands.

“It’s really becoming a big deal,” said Billy Brown, park manager at New Hogan Lake. “I think it has to do with a shift in trends, a shift in values.”

Brown believes that people value their time in the outdoors differently now than before and with that comes an ethos to take care of public lands. He hopes that desire will resonate with the students.

To learn about volunteer opportunities through Center for Community Involvement, call 209.946.2011 or email cci@pacific.edu.

To learn about volunteer opportunities at New Hogan Lake, call 209.772.1343 or email newhogan-info@usace.army.mil.

Media contact:

Keith Michaud | 209.946.3275 (office) | 209.470.3206 (cell) | kmichaud@pacific.edu

Visit our newsroom to see this and other news from University of the Pacific: http://www.go.pacific.edu/news.

Search our media sources database: go.pacific.edu/findanexpert.