The utility workers arrived on Harleys, in pickup trucks and in cars. They cracked jokes with each other as they cleared dead trees from a campsite.
And after a day volunteering as part of the United Way’s Day of Caring, the trails at the Camp St. Albans outside Belfair are safer for the hundreds of Girl Scouts who use the camp each year.
"We’re out here to help," supervisor Al Lehtimaki said, "but we also have a pretty good time."
More than 1,100 Day of Caring volunteers from Pierce County – including almost 500 from the Tacoma School of the Arts – were expected to participate at different sites around the region Friday. Other jobs included landscaping, painting buildings and helping serve meals at a food bank.
The Tacoma Public Utilities workers visit the 414-acre Camp St. Albans between Belfair and Allyn each year. Previous projects included building bleachers around a firepit and creating trails through the woods to get to the site.
Dead trees needed removal this year.
"These fir trees get hit my lightning or die some other way. And they create a hazard for the paths," Lehtimaki said. "We fall them, limb them and buck them into firewood-length. And then we haul them to drying sheds."
Ben Griffin, a 42-year-old utility worker from Lacey, has volunteered at the campsite for the past six years. He enjoys helping out and breaking up the routine of work.
"I think it’s something we all look forward to each year," he said.
Justin Pelesasa of Tacoma said incentives the utility offers for volunteers encourages many – himself included – to sign up.
"I do this, I’ve done Titlow Beach cleanup, I handed out water at the Sound to Narrows Race," he said. "And at the end of the year, I get three paid days off. It’s not a bad way to get extra vacation."
And it’s a way to have fun while helping the community, Dan McCormick said.
"It’s fun," he said. "We kind of get out of town, BS with each other and get something accomplished. And we try not to cut off our toes in the process. It works on a lot of levels for us."