Celebrating Forty Years!

In honor of forty years of empowering youth, conserving natural resources, and building community, we wanted to highlight some of the incredible work that corpsmembers and staff have accomplished across the decades. You will also see various milestones of program expansion. Click around—the timeline is interactive!

Remarks on forty years of service by our founder, Richard Hammond:

The idea of a public “Commons” — property in which all citizens share ownership in some sense, property owned not by any one person or group, but held in common with other citizens – has a long, practical but romantic history in the United States. In the 18th and 19th centuries, early American towns often built themselves around an actual commons, a single undivided piece of land, owned jointly by all the town residents.

In 1981, the Marin Conservation Corps founders envisioned a 20th century “Marin County Public Commons”, not a single plot of land, but rather multicolored patches on the quilt of all lands draped from the summit of Mount Tamalpais downslope in all directions, each patch representing lands owned by the public — rugged ocean headlands, ageless upland redwood forests, majestic open spaces, creeks flowing from Mt. Tam’s shoulders two thousand feet down to tidal bay and ocean wetlands and beaches.

Remarkably, this “Marin Commons”, each piece owned and managed independently by Marin County’s 13 cities and towns, the County itself, the State of California, the Federal Government, special districts, and non-profit entities, comprised, in the aggregate, roughly fifty percent of the total land surface of the County!

With the diverse public agency land managers, each funded separately, each subject to local or distant politics and economic cycles, each faced annually with uncertain budgets for maintaining or restoring their specific lands, mightn’t they all benefit by having access to a dedicated, year-round, trained, supervised, equipped, workforce – a local conservation corps?

Inspired by the California Conservation Corps model and multiple other antecedent programs, MCC’s founders imagined a non-profit entity, subject to its own business model and budgets, collaborating with all willing “public land managers” in Marin County, combining paid conservation work with education and training opportunities for young adult men and women from all of Marin County’s socioeconomic and ethnic communities: A program for “All the Youth on All the Lands in All the Seasons”. A Marin Conservation Corps, to supplement and backstop the budgets and staff of each of the other public land management agencies, and point each MCC corpsmember toward a breadth of natural resource-focused skills and knowledge, and, beyond their MCC service, toward educational and employment opportunities.

The founders’ vision was criticized as administratively impossibly complex. It caught the early support, however, of a quartet of intrepid, politically skilled local women, leading to the first seed grant from the Marin Private Industry Council, support from the County Board of Supervisors and County Parks Department, and, ultimately, to a founding major grant from the newly established Buck Trust staff and Board.

The early MCC Boards of Directors, executive staff, project managers, and corpsmember crews then indeed performed their way through innumerable thickets to translate the program vision into on-the-grade reality, and, subsequently to transplant of the “local conservation corps” idea to Sonoma County as today’s Conservation Corps North Bay, to the East Bay, San Francisco, and San Jose, and now to ten other locations in California.

In today’s parlance, the MCC/CCNB have proven to be a successful and enduring non-profit “start-up”!