Polk recreation approved for AmeriCorps grant

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Polk County Board of Commissioners accepted a grant last month for an AmeriCorps member to work on trails throughout the county.

Commissioners met Feb. 23 and heard from Polk County Recreation Director Jerry Stensland about the grant.

Stensland said the opportunity came up a few months ago through the Polk County Community Foundation. There are two AmeriCorps members already working at the Polk County Agricultural Center.

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Stensland said working on Polk’s trails came out of the recent recreation master plan. With limited staff and resources, Stensland said an AmeriCorps member should work out well for the county as they are usually between college and graduate school and can operate on their own to get work accomplished.

The employee will work full-time for 11 months working on trails and recruiting volunteers to maintain the trails as well as establishing new trails, Stensland said.

Stensland said he sees a county-wide advisory committee being established with partnerships with organizations such as the Pacolet Area Conservancy and the Saluda Community Land Trust.

Commissioner chair Tom Pack asked who will set the priorities of which trails to work on.

Stensland said he thinks that will be a decision of the advisory committee. He said he sees a lot of opportunity on trails in the Green River Gamelands in terms of reopening trails.

Stensland explained that AmeriCorps is a domestic Peace Corps. Members are paid and they get waivers on their student loans as well as get a significant amount of work experience. The grant includes costs of renting space at the Mill Spring Ag Center so the other two AmeriCorps employees can share an office as well as the costs for a laptop computer and supplies. The grant was approved by the Polk County Community Foundation as well as approved to be a part of Project Conserve, managed by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy.

The position will run from September 2015 to July 2016 and report to the Polk County Recreation Department.