Wood Restoration Training at a Treasured CCC Camp

You won’t find HistoriCorps volunteers passing out flyers on a busy street or ringing a bell outside of a grocery store. In fact, unless you go looking for them, you won’t find HistoriCorps volunteers at all…because they’re deep in the woods, helping restore cabins, watch towers, and other historic structures.

Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to visit three different HistoriCorps jobsites. This year, I was invited to the Nesbit Lake Cabins in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to present an epoxy training session for the volunteers and the project supervisor.

Scenic entrance to the Ottawa National Forest                           The HistoriCorps camp was “off the beaten path”

Nesbit Lake is located in the heart of the Ottawa National Forest and the camp there was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. It has hosted thousands of visitors over the years, offering a rustic location on a beautiful lake with some modern conveniences provided by the cabins. It regularly hosts outings and educational trips for churches, non-profit organizations, and schools. I was told that every sixth grade student in the local district spends a week at Camp Nesbit, getting up close and personal with the forest environment.

The beach at Nesbit Lake

This type of place is a treasure, to be sure, but over the years a lack of regular detailed maintenance can take its toll. That’s where HistoriCorps comes in. When I arrived, there was a group of about 10 volunteers on site, led by project supervisor, Ryan Prochaska. The main scope of work during this phase of the project was window restoration and maintenance. Many of the cabin’s wood windows had been neglected for years.  Damaged glass, crumbling putty, and areas of rotted wood were all issues.

One of the 12 bunk cabins at the camp

Ryan gave me a quick tour of the camp, which includes 12 cabins, a kitchen and dining hall,  recreation hall, beach, hiking trails, and ropes course. Then we assembled in the rec hall for a tutorial on epoxy repairs.  Each volunteer had the opportunity to practice with LiquidWood® and WoodEpox®, adding a new skill to their arsenal of preservation talents.

Gathering in the rec hall for epoxy demos                                       Volunteers touching up damaged glazing

The cabins were well-built to protect the windows, with significant roof overhangs, and slanted sills that allow for good water-shedding. However, long periods in between stain applications left many of the sills with splits and weather checking that needed to be filled with epoxy prior to restaining.

Window repairs in-progress                                                        View of the forest from the bunks

I continue to be inspired by HistoriCorp’s mission and the volunteers that help on these projects.  If preserving and restoring historic buildings on public lands is something that interests you, I’d highly suggest looking into volunteering on one of its projects.  You’ll have the opportunity to connect with nature while helping preserve future opportunities for the generations to come.

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