Students from Hamilton College have been at Golden Pond maintaining areas like Brandon Spring, the Homeplace and other parts of LBL, and have also been getting the facilities up and running for the tourist season since Sunday, and they will be there until Saturday, said Eileen Foote, media contact for Hamilton College, which is located in Clinton, N.Y.
The trip is part of Hamilton College’s 18th annual Alternative Spring Break (ASB), an annual volunteer venture wherein 100 students go on 10 different service trips to various non-profit organizations across the country, Foote said.
“There’s 10 of us on this trip here, but our ASB program has sent 10 different trips around the eastern seaboard,” said Kevin Graepel, one of the group leaders on the trip. He also said he enjoys going to work for one of the two weeks they get for spring break.
“It’s a lot of fun, you kind of get tossed into a van with nine other people that you usually don’t really know at all,” Graepel said. “This is a great way to break up that monotony of two weeks at home watching bad TV. It’s also a good mental break of academia.”
On Thursday, the group was making a north-south trail in the northern part of LBL so that it doesn’t do along the road anymore, said Graepel, who also said this was his favorite part of the trip.
“It’s back-breaking, but it’s very easy to see what you’ve accomplished,” said Graepel. He also enjoyed removing greenbriers from an old fence at Brandon Spring on Wednesday. “They were really excited about the fact that this old fence was now visible and they could show it to second graders.”
Christine Roback, one of the other group leaders of the trip, said her favorite part of the trip was the local people they interacted with during the week. “They’ve just been so fantastic and so friendly.”
Like Graepel, Roback said that the volunteer work at LBL, and participation in the ASB program, was a lot of fun, and said that it was a great chance to get to know her fellow classmates.
“It’s fun while helping other people,” Roback said.
Bill Ryan of the U.S. Forest Service talked briefly about the trail-building work the student volunteers were doing.
“We’re trying to eliminate a safety hazard, so we built a mile-long trail through the woods,” said Ryan. “The trail … is the result of all the different spring break groups that have rotated through. It’s taken four spring break groups to build this mile.”
Nicole Hawk, public affairs specialist for the Forest Service, said that during the 2010 fiscal year there were 123,578 volunteer hours worth of work on various parts of LBL.
Graepel said that kind of work was different than what they did the rest of the week, having spent much of their week at Brandon Spring, where they stayed, performing trail maintenance work and splitting logs and doing other necessary work.
They did some work at the Homeplace last Monday, but the heavy rains precluded them from doing more there, said Graepel.
“We got a really thorough tour of the place, so that was great,” Roback said. She also said that they spent most of their time in LBL and didn’t have much time to tour the surrounding area.
Nine groups from the college traveled all around this week working on construction projects, working with children, doing environmental service work or working in urban soup kitchens, said Foote.
The students are housed in churches, camps and refuge centers, and the student volunteers each pay $150 each to participate in ASB trips, Foote said.
Graepel said the college has about 1,800 students, about 100 of which participate in the ASB program, which he said started with Hurricane Andrew. He also said that several different majors are represented, even among the 10 that spent the week at LBL.
“It’s a totally student-run organization, with a faculty or a staff advisor and sort of an office coordinator,” Graepel said, adding that the trips are also student-led. He also said that since space is limited, they do have to turn some people away.
Roback said that there are many people from out-of state, and even a few people from out of the country, at the college and even on the trip.