Updated: May 20, 2014 at 10:52 pm
Construction crews working to mitigate flood damage in the Waldo Canyon burn scar above Highway 24 generally move about 70 logs in a day.
A team led by Air Force football players had 30 placed in its first half-hour.
About 50 cadets, mostly football players among a group that also included dance team members, spent Tuesday working in Wellington Gulch to build what amounts to wooden dams, speed bumps to keep water from rushing down and forming dangerous flooding conditions and also giving the spot a chance to recuperate from the June 2012 disaster.
"They're full-sized trees we've been hauling around," running back Jon Lee said. "We've been getting a good workout, I guess you could say."
Crews would chop down unrecoverable trees and the cadets would put them in place, using shovels and pick axes to dig spots to anchor them against trees or under the support of stakes.
This particular cause is important to many of the cadets, including Lee. He was at the academy on that Tuesday afternoon when the fire stormed into Colorado Springs, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing the cadets to be evacuated to Colorado-Colorado Springs.
"It seemed like hell was coming over with the red cloud," Lee said. "It was scary, actually. It was very scary."
The work on Tuesday was part of the Cadet Service Learning program, through which the future officers perform more than 30,000 hours of community service each year.
This particular project was organized during one of the rare slow times of the year for cadets, as they are finished with finals and awaiting the beginning of their three three-week summer periods.
"There's really no down time," fullback Broam Hart said. "But as far as school, this is definitely down time. We don't have to take classes right now, so it's a chance to catch our breath."
Hart will spend two of his periods at the academy serving in a leadership role during survival training. He'll also have a period at home in Texas.
Lee's time will be split between a period at the academy, one at home in Georgia and another at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, where he hopes to catch a ride in a jet.
"We get antsy when we're just sitting, we want to get out and do something because we're always doing something," Lee said. "We were all excited about getting out here and being active."
The cadets were briefed in the morning in Woodland Park and traveled up to the burn scar for the restoration.
Hart said he was happy to help, and also happy to finally see the damage up close.
"All the trees are burnt and black," he said. The ground is pretty black, too. I imagine it looks better than it used to. I've seen it from base, but now that I'm up here in it it's kind of surreal. It's what I expected. But it's just crazy to think that the fire was going through here."