April 2011    



After years of planning, design and construction starts and stops, the new Camarillo Center opened its doors to the community in March. With an open house and outdoor ceremony, the new facility was officially inaugurated.


CCC Director David Muraki was a speaker for the event, along with Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, Cal Fire Southern Region Chief Dale Hutchinson, CCC Foundation President Tom Riley, Camarillo Mayor Michael Morgan and several others.  Two corpsmembers served as the emcees.


"We had a great mix of community and project partners -- it really was an open house and a great celebration of our new home," says Camarillo Center Director Christie Rochte.


At the conclusion of the ceremony, guests had a chance to see the fire crew do a tool-up demonstration in full gear.  That was followed by tours of the center buildings, with corpsmembers as tour guides.  A graduation ceremony was held later in the afternoon where nine corpsmembers received their high school diplomas from the John Muir Charter School.



Camarillo Center Director Christie Rochte addresses the guests.




Guests included former San Luis Obispo Center Director Tim Rochte, left; former Camarillo Center Director Nacho Piņa; and Los Angeles Conservation Corps Executive Director Bruce Saito.



The Camarillo firefighters provided a tool-up demonstration.



March was a triple-threat month for CCC emergency response.  Crews from San Jose to Sacramento to Los Angeles were called upon to help out.
Sardines: You heard about it on TV, or saw it in the newspaper. But Los Angeles corpsmembers experienced it first-hand -- the accumulation of several million dead sardines in the Redondo Beach harbor.  The CCC was dispatched to help with the removal efforts.
That's C I Carlos Cruz' crewleader, Robert Heustis, pushing the wheelbarrow full of sardines. Carlos' crew, as well as that of Frances Crayton and Jabari Williams, were on hand for the smelly effort.  
Thanks to Carlos Cruz for the great photos.
And Storm Work: There was other emergency response work as well.  C I Taufua Nivau's Sacramento Satellite crew spent a day laying heavy plastic and sandbags along a levee in Sutter County March 22. The work was done under the direction of the Department of Water Resources for a local reclamation district, to protect a stretch of the levee.  Below are some of Taufua's photos:
Capitola Cleanup:
The city of Capitola in Santa Cruz County was hard hit by flooding from March storms. When a culvert in a mobile home park burst and flooded the area, water and mud damage was substantial.  Two San Jose CCC crews, supervised by Chad Harris and Janet Wohlgemuth, spent a day shoveling mud in the mobile home park that has been evacuated and expected to remain so for several weeks. Janet was interviewed by the media as corpsmembers worked to clear the mud.


Tsunami cleanup: Fortuna corpsmembers volunteered their time to join community members in cleaning debris from beaches in Del Norte County. The harbor in Crescent City was hit particularly hard from the effects of the tsunami, with debris scattered along the shoreline.




In the early 1980s, Colleen King, who would go on to work as a newspaper photographer, spent some time shooting life at the Placer Center.  She knew about the Corps as her brother, Michael, had been a corpsmember from 1978-80. Below are a few of the shots Colleen took, some of which were published or displayed in an art show many years ago.


If you recognize yourself or a friend, please let us know at










Elephant Seal Boardwalk:

If you're in San Luis Obispo County and looking at the elephant seals, it's likely you're on a trail constructed by the CCC.  


The CCC's wheelchair-accesss boardwalk trail overlooks the seals and the ocean and is located off Highway 1 about 12 miles north of Cambria.  The boardwalk was built in about six months through a Statewide Trails program partnership, with corpsmembers honing a variety of construction skills in the process.


The elephant seals typically spend December through February on the beach near the Piedras Blancas lighthouse. They draw thousands of visitors each year to the site.


The new trail was officially dedicated in December.








Elephant Seals




 Independence Trail:


This is a disabled-access trail that the Corps first began working on back in the 1980s.  "It's one of the few ADA-wheelchair trails in the woods anywhere," John says.  He notes it gets about 250,000 visitors a year, from local elementary school students to children with cerebral palsy in wheelchairs.  "It's a privilege that we get to do this work."


The crew is rebuilding some of the trails and flume bridges originally constructed by the CCC years ago.  Perhaps some of you recall working on this?








Crew supervisor John Anderson tests the rock work on part of the trail. 






Bonnie at Greenwood, 2005.

Bonnie Patterson, who passed away in February, began her CCC career in March 1981 as a Cook/CCC at Greenwood.  She later became a Supervising Cook at Delta (Stockton) and then Placer.  She went back to Greenwood, then to Tahoe and Placer.  After retiring in 2003, she returned as a Retired Annuitant at Tahoe from 2005-2008.


Retired Field Operations Chief Mark Rathswohl says Bonnie "was a huge part of CCC history, especially the residential portion.  She ran kitchens in the best and worst of conditions, always providing great meals and top-notch training to corpsmembers. She helped establish the kitchen and menu standards throughout the Corps and helped to develop certified training for cook specialists.  And she always had cookies on hand when someone came to visit."


Former Placer District Director Dick Warren recalls the early days in the CCC.  "Bonnie cooked in tents while the Solar Center, now Greenwood Center, was being built.  She could pack incredible meals for a 10-day spike, including many random goodies that made the spartan conditions fun."


"Cooks (and center directors) from around the state came to find out what Bonnie was cooking," Dick says.  Her cook specialist training evolved into a community college certificate course, and Bonnie was one of the Sierra College instructors. 



Bonnie and a corpsmember with Director B.T. Collins, likely 1981.

Dick notes she was often called upon for custom-made cakes for many headquarters celebrations.  When Governor Deukmejian dedicated the renovated headquarters building in 1984, she made a delicious replica of the building to serve to the guests.


"Bonnie loved Greenwood, but she loved corpsmembers more, so she worked at Tahoe and Placer as well when circumstances changed," Dick adds.  " She was a huge presence at the heart of center life wherever she went."




It was an auspicious day for the future of the CCC -- January 22, 1978.  On that day, Mark Rathswohl joined the CCC staff along with nearly 40 others, including future director David Muraki.  markrrrr

Only a few months before,  Mark had gotten a call from a former professor of his at San Diego State.  This was 1977 and it seems there was a new program starting up. 

The professor suggested checking it out.


Mark did so, found out there was an open exam, and applied.  He got on the list --"it was the first Conservationist I exam." 

 Thus started a long list of staff jobs that included crew supervisor, classroom instructor, carpenter, Backcountry supervisor, energy resource specialist, emergency manager, center director, regional director and field operations chief.

Then in 1980 it was off to the Backcountry, to supervise the Kings Canyon crew.  He took the same assignment the following year.

"I had a chance two years ago to go back and see our work on the Middle Fork of the Kings River,"  Mark says.  "It was still there, just as we left it.  I didn't see as many rattlesnakes, though."

Mark has been involved in the CCC's emergency response efforts since its earliest days.   "My first emergency was the Whitmore Fire east of Redding in 1978," he says (see photo. below)."I supervised a Type II (initial attack) crew. We got there at night and immediately were put on the fireline."


Mark Rathswohl, Hoss Payson on 1978 Whitmore Fire.

Over the years Mark recalls fighting rising flood waters in high winds on Venice Island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, helping with cleanup after the 1983 Coalinga earthquake, and tackling rehab work after the 1991 Oakland Hills fire.  He coordinated the CCC's 1989 rehab work in Yellowstone National Park, where two crews were sent after the massive 1988 fires.

The list of centers where Mark worked includes San Luis Obispo, Humboldt, Inyo, Woodlake, Siskiyou, Placer, Greenwood, Tahoe, Stockton, and the Bret Harte Training Academy. 

Back in the late 1980s, Mark probably didn't envision that he would soon put on an IT hat as the Corps' first network administrator.  "I installed the first e-mail system, both software and hardware, at headquarters and all the centers."

He moved back to the field, and became an Energy Resource Specialist at Placer and with the Construction Unit.   A few years later it was back to headquarters as emergency manager. He took the lead on the 2001 "PowerWalk," a four-month statewide distribution effort of 1.9 million energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs. 

Then it was back to Placer as center director and in April 2005, back to headquarters as regional director for Region I.  At the beginning of 2008, Mark was promoted to Chief of Field Operations.

The CCC has also been a family affair, with Mark's son, Kevin, a onetime corpsmember at the Ukiah Center.

Reflecting on the CCC over the years, Mark says the biggest change has been the reduction in the number of residential centers.  In the Corps' earliest days, there were only residential centers.  "It's still one of the most unique and powerful tools to change people's lives."

Mark believes the original intent of the program is still strong.  "We teach the work ethic, which is not that common anymore," he says. "Basically, we're teaching people how to work hard and work together.  It's something valuable for corpsmembers that they can take to their next job." 

Mark, left, with Peter Lewis and David Muraki, about 1983.
Mark was honored at a retirement party in January. Coming the farthest: former CCC Projects Manager Walt Auburn, now director of energy efficiency for the State of Maryland's Energy Administration, and former CCC Chief Deputy Director Robert Burkhardt, head of the Eagle Rock School in Estes Park, Colorado.  Also attending were more than 100 current and former colleagues.  


At Mark's retirement party, former CCC staff members Robert Burkhardt and John Oubre.


Former Placer staff members Dave Ruiz and Sue Ingle.



























Now that Monterey Bay is a full-fledged center, it has its own patch for the first time.  The patch was designed by Conservationist II Janet Wohlgemuth and is now being proudly worn by corpsmembers and staff.





Because of state privacy laws, the CCC's alumni registry/database, hosted by the State of California, does not have a searchable feature.


However, we can help link you up with other former corpsmembers through this newsletter, posting inquiries that include e-mail addresses only.  Send your inquiries to with your message and contact e-mail.  By voluntarily e-mailing us, you are authorizing us to include your contact information in an upcoming newsletter.



Frank Payne was at Hemet Ryan Helitack base, the San Luis Obispo training center and Camarillo, from 1987 to 1989.  You can e-mail him at



Keli Dunster would love to reconnect with anyone at Santa Clara from 1989 to 1990.  She remembers Tony, Jeannie, Chris and Patrick.  E-mail Keli at



Steve Kirsch was at the Butte Fire Center in 1978, Humboldt Fire Center in 1979, Camarillo in 1980 and La Honda in 1980.  He can be reached at



Damion Swartz is looking for people who were at Santa Clara 1996-97 and people who were at Elkhorn Slough 1997-98.  E-mail him at



Jeanne Saykally Shuman says she's looking for "any of us originals" from Bret Harte 1977, Siskiyou 1978, Yountville, 1978, San Bernardino Forest Center, 1979. She can be reached at



Eric Johnson would like to find corpsmembers from the Vallejo campus on Mare Island (Pacific Bays), from 2001-2003.  He recalls his C Is: Dave Jaramillo and Merrold Young.  Eric can be reached at



Adrienne Bommarito Clark is looking for the women of Crew 1, Mike Parker's crew, from Humboldt Fire Center, 1979-80. Tracey Wright, Bob Mahoney, Mr.Bill, Bernard T. Saw (Ron Cole), Mike Jamison, Toni Johnson, Rosa Garcia and more.  Reach Adrienne at



Sue Owens would like to reconnect with corpsmembers or staff of the San Luis Obispo Center from 1982-85.  She was a corpsmember for a year and a half, then a Cook I.  E-mail Sue at



Tina Hadley is looking for old friends from Session 113 at the San Luis Obispo training center, then the Sequoia Center in Porterville, then the Butte Fire Center in Magalia between 1987 and 1989.  E-mail Tina at



Joe Flores is looking for crewmembers and staff from the Placer Fire Center from 1978-1980.  He was on crew 2 and his CDF fire captain was Joe Tapia. E-mail him at



Cliff Ballard would like to find Traci Bell and Dwayne Smith who were at the Butte Fire Center, 1985-87.  Contact him at



Margo Baccellia is looking for anyone who attended the Corps back in 1982 on Treasure Island (San Francisco).  E-mail her at



Mike Wilson is looking for anybody who was stationed at Yountville in 1980. E-mail Mike at



Michelle Edwards is looking for old CCC friends, especially Cheryl Badini-Nelson, Ali R from Humboldt, and Cindy (Sup) and Cammie, plus Backcountry crew members and anyone she worked with.  She was at San Bernardino in 1983, then Kings Canyon 1984, Humboldt/201 Project, 1982-85, diesel mechanic apprenticeship at the Eel River HQs, Humboldt 1985-86.Contact her at



Greg Norman is looking for friends from San Luis Obispo Center,1996-97 and Butte Fire Center, 1998-99.  Specifically looking for Mercury "Tim" Goodman from SLO.  Contact Greg at



Rebecca Cardenas was at the Santa Clara Center from July 1982 to June 1983.  She can be reached at



Allan Crose is looking for Robert Stancoff or Tony A. Holbron, or anyone who was at the Bollinger Canyon Fire Center in 1981-82.  Allan can be contacted at



Teresa Tims was at Pomona around 1986 and is looking for Carmen and the other girls and guys she had so much fun with.  It was the year that Coolio was at the center. She really wants to get in touch with the girls from "Pico."  Please e-mail her at



Mario Cannizzaro is looking to hear from people from his Santa Clara crew from 1991-93.  He can be reached at



Jim "Dandy" Maher is looking to reconnect with friends from the Bret Harte third graduation class (1977) and the Camarillo Center (1977-78).  His e-mail address is



Kelly Buchanan was in the UC Davis dorms in the summer of 1977 and was part of the Lake Berryessa crew.  E-mail Kelly at



Anyone from the 1993-95 Klamath/Sierra Backcountry crew or Inland Empire/San Diego/La Cima crew?  If you remember Natalie McClaine, contact her at



Shari Brooks was part of the original session 9, probably 1978.  "We are the group that literally opened up the San Pedro Center and were the first to start landscaping of the Korean Bell.  Does anyone remember Lucky the cook who lost his fight to cancer?"  Contact Shari at



Casie Arnold is looking for people from San Luis Obispo, specifically Charnna Thompson, Dean Pass, Paul Rivas, Anthony Bradshaw, Teri Dunnivant and Robert Mendoza.  Contact Casie at



Steve Hirai was a crewleader at the Del Norte Fire Center from 1979-1981.  He's in touch with some alumni but is looking for Peter Burnett, Bruce Smith, Kim Hightower Richards, Nancy Hightower Richards, Lynn Eutiner, Ladelle Ashley, Ceoli Menzes, Patrick Callahan, Tim Grey, Martin Black and others.  His cell phone is 949-566-5926 and his e-mail



Jimi Smith worked in the Construction Unit at San Luis Obispo, from 1987-1990.  If you were there at that time, contact Jimi at



Robert Owens was at the Placer Energy Center from March 1991 to February 1994.  He's looking for Mike Wallace, Hobo Martinez, Wiley Chestnut, Dave Sanchez and Drea Norton.  He can be reached at



Kathy Bergin Green was at the Stockton Energy Center and the Placer Energy Center, when Solar, Stockton and Placer were combined.  She was also known as Peaches at San Luis Obispo.  She can be reached at



Judy Bixby, now known as Judes Kingsbury, was in the CCC from 1981-82.  Her former husband for 18 years was Craig Schermerhorn, also a CCC member.  "Our almost 18-year-old son may be joining."  To e-mail Judy:



Javier Soltero worked at the FDR Center in San Diego back in 1981 and went to the crewleader academy at Murphys in 1982, then on to the San Bernardino Center.  You can reach Javier at



Mike Geary went to the Del Norte Center in 2000 and was on C I Mike Joyer's crew. He is looking for Jennifer R who was on his crew, who had a green hat.  Mike can be reached at



Edgard Martinez was at the San Luis Obispo Center in September 2002 and is looking for a friend, Melissa Cervantes(z). Contact Edgard at


Susan Lawrence (Isaacs) wen through training at Bret Harte in 1979, then to Mt. San Jacinto Center.  "My BFF Kathy (married Dave Ruiz a few years later), Lori Ruby, Greg Fine, Cal, Charles, Dave Miovas, Slick (Terry), Robert Alquist, Tony Isaacs, Teresa Isaacs and the list goes on for the group there from 1979-80." Susan can be reached at



Swamper Julie Stilwell is looking for any of the old Placer One crew (1978-1979) under Gerry Quigley.  She can be reached at



Raymond Vega worked at Pomona in 2001 then transferred to the La Cima Fire Center.  He was then hired by the U.S. Forest Service in 2002. Raymond can be e-mailed at



Lee Watson is looking for anyone who went through training in San Andreas.  Lee was there from February to August 1985.  "Shelly, I hope you're out there."  You can reach Lee at




If you might make a good alumni profile, or you have a suggestion (and contact information) for someone who might, let us know.  We're also looking for good photos from your CCC days that might be of interest to others.  E-mail CCC Public Information Officer Susanne Levitsky at or call her at (916) 341-3145.


Don't forget to keep your e-mail address and other information up-to-date in our  CCC Alumni Registry.  This is the basis for our newsletter list and also allows us to learn more about the wide variety of occupations and experiences of our alumni.  We'll also be able to let you know if there are special events in your area.



 Thanks very much!


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