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It’s time for us to think outside the box

By Ed Dawkins,
President Obama just signed into existence the creation of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, based on the huge amount of work put in by people like Andrew Fulks and Bob Schneider, the Tuleyome organization, and various politicians.
Whoopee! We now have this amazing new national monument — for the first time, allowing public access to one of our great natural areas. So what is next?
Here’s a proposal of a possible first-of-a-kind local experiment, leading to the solution of our Northern California monument’s main concern — its financing and care issues. Throughout Berryessa Snow Mountain’s 100-mile long area, there is extensive work to be done for trail construction and maintenance, brush removal and management. There is a need to facilitate traffic, road maintenance and designated parking, to make this beautiful area accessible.
Let me step back a bit and give a little history to support my idea. Back in the 1930s, the Depression left scores of people unemployed and without prospect. President Franklin D. Roosevelt created two national programs to help offset people’s effort to provide and survive. The most well known program was the WPA (Works Progress Administration) and its partner program CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). These allowed the needy to help themselves during the Great Depression era. It provided work and gave people the opportunity to have a sense of value and pride, and generate local and nationwide structural improvements. This allowed substantial creativity and production by the recipients, and also benefited the communities.
Flash forward to today, where a newly inaugurated national monument has been created in a wondrous and unused area. This step forward is a great victory in securing a pristine piece of California for access and enjoyment.
Yet questions arise as how to manage the land and address financial issues in an already strapped economy. Maybe history can repeat itself. This is where old and new can blend together and we can recreate a functional program and improve access for people to enjoy the resources.
The CCC (California Conservation Corps) was initiated in 1976 under Governor Jerry Brown, and is now a permanent program that is in partnership with AmeriCorps (a similar national program). Both provide uplifting work for youth — men and women 18-25 years old — improving natural resources and other projects. Coordinating with CCC and AmeriCorps should be the first step to embrace our goals.
We can go further. What if the program were locally expanded? There are still many people who accept public dollars, with no real buy-in, such as welfare, food stamps, etc. While these programs provide needed public assistance, the missing piece is people having the larger problem of accepting life-assisting dollars without the joy and psychological fulfillment of their own productive efforts.
Programs like WPA and CCC were meant for people to be able to receive, but also to give, a balanced equation. Many of today’s programs only operate in one soul-deadening direction, taking, not giving back. This has created an unbalanced and unsustainable system, and is destroying the natural balance of beneficial programs.
So why not take the WPA and CCC mindset and apply it to today’s needs? Expand the age limit, and let people who need work, work. Offer people who receive benefits to give back and contribute. The carrot is both the work and some pay. Productive activity is necessary for the fulfillment of the human psyche. This could also be a modeling impact on our national welfare program — receiving a reward for being productive, not just “being”.
To start this initiative, there are two CCC locations relatively near Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, Napa and Ukiah, which could be accessed.