The CCC California Conservative Corps: low pay, hard work; Finding ways to push, pull members to grow

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Chief deputy director Robert Burkhardt calls himself the ''philosopher'' of the California Conservation Corps. A Peace Corps worker in Africa after graduating from college, Mr. Burkhardt joined the CCC as a center director after returning to the United States.

Burkhardt says he constantly ''looks for ways to push and pull members to grow.'' He sees a ''rippling out'' of the work ethic instilled by the CCC.

A corps member can ''experience success every day,'' even if in small measure , he explains, ''and if you experience success, you won't put up with failure.''

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In a recent paper ''adapted from remarks to and discussions with corps members,'' Burkhardt wrote: ''The CCC consciously promotes values in five expectations for corps members and staff: produce quality work, acquire hard skills, improve physical fitness, write every day, practice conservation.

''The corps obligates participants to practice these values.''

Striving to meet that standard, individual members of the CCC have contributed to an impressive overall record. In the six years since its establishment, the corps has done work in the state valued at $136 million, according to a 1976-82 report recently issued by former CCC director Jack Dugan.

The C's have contributed more than 1.5 million hours of work on park and recreation facilities, building or repairing 800 miles of park trails, and constructing new facilities.

Because it takes in new members monthly, and because there is steady attrition for various reasons - including the completion of service, CCC membership fluctuates. But before a state freeze on hiring was imposed late in 1981, enrollment held at around 2,000. Because of the freeze, it averaged about 1,800 last year. But corps officials point out that there is a continuing waiting list of several thousand applicants.

Mr. Dugan said recently he feels that a CCC with 3,000 members ''would be more economical, reach more young women and men, and provide more protection and enhancement of the state's natural resources.'' If it were larger than that, he says, it would be difficult to manage efficiently and would lose its ''personal'' character.

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