Feel Good News from Jason Kuiken, Forest Supervisor

Stanislaus National Forest Supervisor to local communities: Thank you


Forest Supervisor Jason Kuiken says thank you to community partners for their help during the five-week shutdown


SONORA, Calif. — When the partial government shutdown began Dec. 23, I met with the district rangers to discuss our concerns about how some of the Stanislaus National Forest’s more popular locations would fare while nearly all of the forest’s 300 employees were furloughed.


The furlough officially began during the busy vacation period between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day and we began hearing about health and safety issues at our national parks like Yosemite and Joshua Tree. I wasn’t sure how we could prevent similar issues on the Stanislaus, since there are no entrance gates and visitors are always welcome on the forest.


When the shutdown began, we knew trash and restroom maintenance would be a big challenge, since our furloughed forest employees would not be available to keep grounds clean and equipment in good repair. As soon as we started to see photos of overflowing trash cans around the forest, the community sprang into action.  Many individuals and organizations stepped up to manage vital services needed by visitors.


We are so grateful to be blessed with partners and community members who love the Stanislaus as much as we do. They saw a problem didn’t hesitate to help solve it. They were out in force on all ranger districts on the forest.


As stories began circulating about issues at Yosemite and our forest, Lisa Mayo, the director of the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau, quickly developed a media campaign called “Tuolumne County – too cool to trash.” She reached out to the Echo Adventure Cooperative, who provided volunteers at the Yosemite entrance, while the Best Western Plus Sonora Oaks Hotel and Conference Center sent volunteers to the 120 park entrance to hand out trash bags. Rush Creek, Groveland Hotel and Hotel Charlotte gave out vouchers to people who brought their trash to them and put it in their dumpsters. The National Hotel in Jamestown also offered to take trash. Lisa also took trash bags and “Too cool to trash” decals to Alicia’s Sugar Shack in Sugar Pine to give out. Finally, the visitor bureau contacted local media outlets in an effort to remind visitors how important it was to take their trash with them when they left. A huge thank you to Lisa, her staff and all the partners who helped take care of their community.


On Mi-Wok/Summit ranger districts, organizations like the Pinecrest Lake Resort and the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau helped organize cleanup crews and funded contracts that provided porta potties.  Laurie Cashman, the general manager for Pinecrest Lake Resort, contacted Lisa Mayo at the Visitor Bureau and worked out a way for the Visitor Bureau to add four more porta potties on their contract and locate them near the day use area on Summit Ranger District. “We could see trash piling up in the marina and day use areas,” Laurie said. “As trash cans began overflowing, they became attractive targets for wildlife that lives in the area – especially the crows.” She saw how quickly these intelligent birds learned to break into trash bags that had been left unprotected, scattering trash about as they searched for food scraps and other interesting items.


Laurie not only had her resort staff helping with trash collection, she arranged with Watch, a local community group that supports people with intellectual disabilities, to bring six people to help pick up trash. She paid her employees and the Watch crew to clean up.


On Groveland Ranger District, volunteer James Johnson II, who goes by JJ, seemed to be everywhere during the shutdown. He provided support to Sweetwater and Pines campground visitors, monitored and serviced the public restrooms at Rim of the World and the Rainbow Pool day use areas and the restroom just outside the Groveland District office clean and tidy.  JJ’s presence and dedication ensured that visitors enjoyed a quality recreation experience while safeguarding forest resources and facilities. His communication with visitors offered them a sense of security while gaining the visitors’ cooperation in keeping our public lands inviting.


On Calaveras Ranger District, volunteers Jon Faust and John Wagner were equally vital to our operations there. Jon Faust helped clean up brush and trees on Calaveras trails, ensuring our visitors could hike more safely.  John Wagner, his wife and his father volunteered to keep facilities at the Highway 4 sno parks clean – maintaining restrooms and collecting broken sleds and other trash left behind by visitors. Because it was during the holiday season, there were a lot of families enjoying their vacations, and thanks to these volunteers, visitors’ memories were of sledding and hiking on Calaveras Ranger District.

Everywhere I go as I represent the Forest Service, I have always highlighted the wonderful relationship the Stanislaus has with its local communities in Summit/Mi-Wok, Groveland and Calaveras ranger districts. Their successes are our successes, too; we appreciate the support we receive during our “normal” business activities. But I must admit I can’t stop telling anyone I’m talking with about the incredible dedication and support we saw while our employees were not able to provide the day-to-day services that are so important to our guests.


It’s not just in the volunteers who came out to help keep our public lands safe for visitors. It’s the local businesses who reached out to our employees, like Black Oak Casino. They offered help to forest employees at a time when they were at a low point, reaching out to let them know they weren’t alone. I’m sure there were others whose names I didn’t learn about, so I want to say thank you to each of you.


That’s what true friendship and partnership is all about. On behalf of the employees of the Stanislaus National Forest, I want to say thank you for showing us such support and kindness – and your dedication to our public lands. That is what friends are all about.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~  From BK:  It’s just nice to see the positive that people can do in times of community need and service.  Thank you to all those mentioned and those unnamed in Jason’s article.

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