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AmeriCorp volunteers clear the way on Armstrong Trail

| Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, 12:02 a.m.
Louis B. Ruediger
Appalachain Coal Country Raven 5 Team members Thane Clamann, 19, of Texas and Alexandra Ogilvie, 18, of Utah clear limbs and debris along the Rails to Trails near Indiana Avenue in Kittanning on Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times

KITTANNING – Seven trailblazers from around the country are lending a hand this week along sections of area trails.

Ranging in age from 18 to 24, the high school graduates and college students have been busy clearing debris and vegetation from sections of the Armstrong Trail.

As members of AmeriCorps working on an Appalachian Coal Country team, they have become adept at pitching in to help out with projects in rural communities throughout the Atlantic region.

Dan Clesowich of Connecticut is the group's team leader.

He said the group, called the Raven 5 team, has worked together on projects for 10 months and this is in the fourth and final project round.

Members have been staying at the Kittanning Grace Brethren Church retreat center since their arrival on Friday, said Clesowich.

On Monday, the seven young people worked all morning along the trail by Lock and Dam 8 in Mosgrove before heading over to clear portions of trail along Indiana Avenue in Kittanning.

“I enjoy physical projects like this,” said Clesowich.

He and Oliver Dougherty of Minnesota said that dealing with poison ivy presented a challenge.

Thane Clamann of Texas said projects can last as long as eight weeks or they can be shorter, like the one they are currently involved in here in Armstrong County.

Their involvement helps provide much needed labor for organizations like the Allegheny Valley Land Trust.

“It frees up members of AVLT like Ron (Steffey) to help him get the job done faster,” said Dougherty, adding that the group cleared ½ mile of trail within three hours.

“A lot of us have never worked a physical job before,” said Alexandra Ogilvie, of Utah. “It's very demanding but we can feel ourselves getting stronger.”

She said she has learned to use a backhoe since arriving in the area.

Chelsea Pennucci, of New York, said working on projects like the one they are doing right now gives them a chance to learn how to operate a lot of equipment such as backhoes and jackhammers.

Steffey, executive director of AVLT, said the team members are all cooperative, polite, enthusiastic hard workers.

“This is a top shelf crew,” he said. “They are willing to do anything. Nothing is too hard for them.”

The ACCT is a non-profit organization which helps connect federal agencies and rural communities, providing those communities with trained volunteer support.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or

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