Volunteer hosts set up residence at Cedar Creek trailhead

Chip and Christine D’amico, forest service volunteer trailhead hosts for Cedar Creek Falls, visit with neighbor Phil Harding.  Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard
Chip and Christine D’amico, forest service volunteer trailhead hosts for Cedar Creek Falls, visit with neighbor Phil Harding. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

By Karen Brainard

A couple from Arizona has taken up temporary residence as trailhead hosts for the Cedar Creek Falls trail and is receiving a warm reception from their neighbors along Thornbush Road.

Within one week of arriving, they had been invited to dinner at Nancy and Phil Harding’s home.

Francis “Chip” and Christine D’amico are volunteering through a program with the U.S. Forest Service, which in turn provides a concrete pad and hook-up at the trailhead for them to live in their motor home. The Cedar Creek trail starts at the end of Thornbush Road in San Diego Country Estates and hikers must obtain a permit through the forest service to use the trail.

A spokesperson from the Cleveland National Forest office described the hosts’ duties as “to help educate the public and essentially be our eyes and ears.”

The D’amicos, who love being outside, are enthusiastic about their new role.

“We’ve committed to three months,” said Christine, adding they might stay longer. “We really love it.”

The couple, both in their early 50s, said the forest service found their backgrounds a perfect fit for the trailhead. Chip is a retired police sergeant and Christine retired from a career in customer service.

Chip said he sees a real need for hosts at the trail, which prohibits alcohol and jumping and diving from the cliffs into the pool below the falls.

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Chip and Christine D’amico from Arizona serve as volunteer trailhead hosts for the Cedar Creek Falls trail, checking for visitor use permits, educating hikers, and serving as “eyes and ears” for the forest service. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

For anyone who gets caught, Chip said, “It’s actually a misdemeanor charge on their record.”

Since they arrived on Oct. 18, they have seen a few young people arrive and leave after noticing their parked RV.

The couple will check that hikers have permits and, if not, show them how to access a permit from a smartphone. They also will advise people of the trail’s challenges and the need to take plenty of water. Still, that doesn’t sound like enough work  to them.

“We’re people who like to stay busy all the time,” noted Chip, saying they also will be weeding, landscaping, and taking out trash. They each expect to work about 35 hours per week.

   
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