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Railroad cleanup underway with help of Conservation Corps

The City of Santa Barbara and Union Pacific teamed up with a group of California Conservation Corps members — all 18-to 25-year-olds — for the annual railroad corridor cleanup.

Two years ago, Angela Johnson didn’t know what to do after high school graduation.

“I was 18, didn’t have money for school, didn’t have any work experience, didn’t even know what I wanted to do. So, I was kind of a little bit, you know — a lot of kids right out of high school don’t know what to do,” she said.

Her experience is common in this group of young people out clearing brush along the railroad tracks.

“Well, after high school I went to community college, couldn’t really find anything,” said Timo Fejschneider, CCC crew leader.

Angela and her teammate Timo, both found the California Conservation Corps. It is a paid work experience program for those just starting their work life.

“This gives them the opportunity on how to brush up on their skills, utilizing chainsaws, how to do a proper felling, and also teamwork is number one,” said Javier Ramos, CCC field supervisor.

Their skills are put to good use in a place where the work is important.

“This is Santa Barbara, it’s a major fire risk area,” said Shawn Potter of Union Pacific.

And it’s not just cleanup they’re good at.

“The crews you see out here today are actual fire crews that have been up and down the state already a lot this summer fighting fires,” explained Capt. Ron Welcome, Cal Fire.

One of the fires they helped put out was the Springs Fire in Camarillo.

“They do a great job. They’re hard workers. Plus they fight fires, too, so they’re in pretty good shape,” said Hector Balboa, City of Santa Barbara.

Young people like Angela and Timo can be part of the Conservation Corps as long as three years. When their time is up, Timo said, they’re ready to tackle the world.

“Get that good job, that good career, or go to school and then do that,” he said.

“I hope to one day eventually be a captain and have my own crew,” said Angela.

The crew started cleaning up the area around the train tracks in the beginning of May and they should be done in the next few days.

The annual cleanup project is funded by Union Pacific.

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