On August 18, 2023, Chugach’s Mission and Core Behaviors came together in unison as a group of Chugach employees set sail from Whittier on a United State s Forest Service (USFS) marine vessel to participate in a volunteer opportunity in Prince William Sound (PWS).
This year, Chugach started the Employee Volunteer Program, which allows our employees to work a half day at charities and non-profits, or on projects that benefit the community. “Under this program, our Lands, Community, and Culture departments decided to select a project in our region that would strengthen our ties to our lands” said Jack Blackwell, Chugach’s Vice President of Land and Resources.
Jack continued, “I knew that the Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation (PWSSF) coordinated volunteer and stewardship opportunities in the PWS, so I approached them about a potential project that Chugach employees could take part in. They directed us to the USFS which was seeking volunteers to help make improvements and upgrades to the 17-Mile Campsite.”
This recreational site is named after its 17-mile proximity to Whittier. Blackstone Glacier is at the head of Blackstone Bay and is one of the primary destinations in west PWS. People camp at 17-Mile while recreating in the area. To ensure accessibility, it requires annual maintenance and upkeep, as well as improvements that allow visitors to enjoy all that the site has to offer.
“17-Mile encompasses three camping areas and an interlocking trail system that connects these sites. There are multiple campsites in each of the three areas,” Jack shared. “We spent the day installing signs along the beach to identify the trails that lead to the campsites and worked to clear the trails. Vegetation grows quickly in this environment, so it’s necessary to clear the trees and brush on yearly basis that, if left untended, will encroach on the trails and make them impassable.”
Chugach President Josie Hickel was amongst the group of Chugach volunteers and wanted to thank those who took part. “It was a beautiful, sunny day on the water to and from 17-Mile, and the reward of giving back to the region further added to the day’s enjoyment,” Josie said. “I want to thank Jack for organizing this effort, and I want to thank Diana Brinkman and Anastasia Buretta from our Finance team who joined the effort along with Matthew Ellis who works in our Lands department and Tatianna Turner who works for Chugach’s Cultural Resources for doing their part to build community and better the 17-Mile Campsite.”
Jack Blackwell extended his gratitude as well. “I want to thank my fellow Chugach employees for volunteering at 17-Mile, and I would also like to acknowledge Charla Hughes, PWSSF Executive Director; Chris Stewart, USFS Glacier District Ranger; Tim Lydon, USFS Area Manager; and Barbara Lydon, USFS Wilderness Ranger, for coordinating this project on our behalf. Their dedication and commitment to protecting the land and waters of Prince William Sound is greatly appreciated.”