Rain dampens controlled burn plans

Published 9:59 pm Monday, May 20, 2013

Intermittent rain during recent weeks has foiled the plans of AmeriCorps volunteers to prepare the Great Dismal Swamp for summer by conducting prescribed burns.

Since arriving at the swamp April 29, Phoenix 2, an AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps team, has been unable to take part in any burns inside the National Wildlife Refuge, 23-year-old team member Jared Schopp said.

“The weather has been pretty rainy during our stay here, which is unfortunate,” he said. “But we have made the best of it and volunteered with other nonprofits.”

AmeriCorps volunteers Brienna Rainey and Jared Schopp help a boy at the Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival on April 27. They are from Phoenix 2, a team that actually comes here to work on prescribed burns, but has so far been rained out.

AmeriCorps volunteers Brienna Rainey and Jared Schopp help a boy at the Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival on April 27. They are from Phoenix 2, a team that actually comes here to work on prescribed burns, but has so far been rained out.

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Volunteering with Norfolk thrift store Good Mojo and a Habitat for Humanity retail store are two of those other activities.

Members also signed up for a Girls on the Run 5K. The group teaches girls be in control of their lives.

“Here at the Great Dismal Swamp, we’ve been clearing trails,” Schopp said. “We take a blower and walk the trails, blowing away the debris.

“We pick up litter, and we’re doing all the trails around the headquarters. Anywhere that there’s a boardwalk, we are going to hit.”

Phoenix 2’s eight members — including the team leader — also helped out at the three-day Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival in April.

But while the rain continues, the team will need more projects in which to channel its youthful energies.

“We are looking for something to do in Suffolk,” Schopp said.

AmeriCorps volunteers were able to finish some prescribed burns in the swamp in 2012, working under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forester Steve Hubner, their sponsor again this year.

Volunteers with the national community service organization come from various areas and have diverse backgrounds.

Schopp, from the small town of Minier, Ill., said he was studying marketing at Illinois State University before deciding to take some time out.

“I would be a junior right now, but I wasn’t doing well, so I was looking for something else to get more experience, and I found AmeriCorps,” he said. “When I go back I’ll probably finish my degree.”

Phoenix 2 is in town until May 31, and the next team will be here for four or five weeks starting June 16, Schopp said.

“AmeriCorps really shows you different parts of the country,” he said. “We are learning about the environment, as well. It’s very cool to learn about that and know you are doing something for the environment. It’s lots of fun.”