San Luis Obispo Center - Los Padres

Wildland firefighter corpsmember hikes up hill.

CCC Los Padres Corpsmember Valerie Sadler hikes up a steep rock face to access a containment line during the Creek Fire in September 2020.

The San Luis Obispo Center is located on the grounds of Camp San Luis Obispo – the original home of the California National Guard – and next door to Cuesta Community College. Opened in 1977, the center—part of the Los Padres District—was the CCC’s first residential center and has been in operation since.

The center is home to 80 Corpsmembers focused on trail work from Big Sur to the Oceano Dunes. It also hosts the Save Our Sierra program – in partnership with AmeriCorps and California Volunteers – that mitigates tree mortality damage in California’s Sierra Nevada.

The Los Padres District also operates the Santa Maria Center.

1530 Madera Ave.
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
(805) 549-3561

San Luis Obispo Center Video Tour

Life at the San Luis Obispo Center

Crew enjoying their lunch break.

CCC San Luis Obispo Corpsmembers clean up a walking trail along Morro Bay, making it safer for visitors by removing overgrown vegetation and rocks.

Corpsmembers live in dormitories on center grounds. Each dorm has a small flat screen television. The center’s recreation room includes a professional pool table, big screen TV, foosball table, weight room, and a surround sound movie theater. Laundry machines are on site for Corpsmembers to use.

The Corpsmembers at the San Luis Obispo Center host a weekly community meeting with all Corpsmembers and available staff in attendance. The purpose of the Community Meeting is to acknowledge what the crews are working on, make announcements about upcoming classes and volunteer events, recognize Corpsmember accomplishments, and discuss community issues. The center has a Corpsmember Advisory Board (CAB) that serves as a representation of the Corpsmember community. The board members are voted into office during elections that are held quarterly. CAB runs a “Snack Shack,” organizes the recycling program, and runs other fundraising events to fund Corpsmember activities.

On weekends, Corpsmembers are free to do what they’d like. There are plenty of community volunteer activities offered to meet the CCC’s requirement for volunteer service, which is required to earn the educational scholarship. Brunch is served at 9 a.m. and dinner at 4:30 p.m. Recreational activities are also organized. Family members are welcome to visit after work and on weekends, with approval by staff.

Projects

Los Padres Corpsmembers felling a tree.

CCC San Luis Obispo Corpsmember Parker Luitwieler works to fell a 30-inch diameter tree near the U.S. Forest Service property in Groveland as part of the Save Our Sierra program. 

Wildland Firefighting: The San Luis Obispo Center partners with CAL FIRE to provide two year-round wildland firefighting crews. Corpsmembers receive training and hands-on experience working with CAL FIRE captains responding to wildfires locally and across the state. The center is collaborating with the CAL FIRE San Luis Obispo (SLU) unit to operate the crews. Wildland hand crews help build fire line with hand tools and conduct mop-up work. The center’s crews are known as Toro 1 and Toro 2 when dispatched.

The center’s natural resource projects include trail rehabilitation, trail construction, fire hazard reduction, tree planting, native plant restoration, landscaping, park development and minor construction. Center projects take place primarily in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and southern Monterey counties, although projects outside of these areas are not uncommon. With its location on the Central Coast, SLO crews can reach emergencies in Northern or Southern California in five to six hours, on average.

Some sponsors that request for the San Luis Obispo Center to assist with the planning and execution of resource enhancement projects include city, county, state, and federal agencies; the Department of Fish and Game; the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection; California State Parks; the Morro Bay National Estuary Program; Morro Estuary Greenbelt Alliance; the United States Forest Service; resource conservation districts; community services districts; and local nonprofit land conservancies.

The center also participates in a number of special programs, including:

  • Fire Safe Council: CCC works on high priority fuel reduction production as designated by Fire Safe Council and CAL FIRE. These projects are a critical part of wildfire prevention in San Luis Obispo County.
  • Caltrans Trainee Positions: Opportunities for Los Padres and Santa Maria Corpsmembers include Caltrans Trainee positions, similar to interns, for District 5 Tree Crew and Heavy Equipment Maintenance Crew.
  • Morro Bay National Estuary Program Partnership: The Los Padres Center has developed a major working relationship with the Morro Bay National Estuary program that funds a CCC watershed crew to work in the estuary’s watershed. The watershed crew is involved in bank repair to prevent erosion, the dismantling of derelict boats threatening to pollute the bay, eelgrass planting in the bay, fence removal and riparian protection, and removal of exotic plants and grasses.
  • Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Program: The Los Padres Center has worked closely with the Department of Fish and Game and local watershed steward groups for projects that will provide a direct benefit to salmon and steelhead. These include habitat assessment and inventory, riparian restoration, in-stream habitat enhancement, removal of exotic species, fish passage improvement, stream bank stabilization, upper watershed erosion control, and cattle exclusion fencing in sensitive riparian areas.
  • CCC Save Our Sierra Program: The Los Padres Center hosts a crew to combat tree mortality in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. This crews works ten-hour days camping at remote locations where they remove dead and dying trees to make the forests a safer place for everyone.
  • Caltrans Fish Passage Program: Select Corpsmembers conduct fish surveys at Caltrans designated locations in state right of ways to help improve fish populations throughout the state.
  • CCC-NOAA Veterans Corps Fisheries Program: In partnership with NOAA, this program provides post-9/11 veterans new opportunities to build their skills and work experience by restoring and protecting fisheries resources. Veteran Corpsmembers work side-by-side with experts from state, federal, and non-profit restoration partners. Work involves habitat restoration and monitoring projects identified by NOAA Fisheries. Veterans must possess a DD214 to participate in this program.

Education and Training

Crew from the Los Padres Center being educated on fire spotting techniques in a lookout tower.

Toro 1 and Toro 2, the San Luis Obispo Center CAL FIRE partnered fire crews, ready for their wildland fire readiness exercise Santa Margarita, CA.

All Corpsmembers at the San Luis Obispo Center complete Corpsmember Orientation, Motivation, Education, and Training (COMET) and core training courses. The computer lab at the center allows for classroom training as well as internet access for Corpsmembers. WiFi is also available at the center.

The center also partners with Cuesta Community College to allow Corpsmembers to earn college credits by learning while on the job through the college’s Cooperative Work Experience Program.

Specialized trainings and certifications offered at the San Luis Obispo Center include:

  • CAL FIRE Type I Firefighter Training
  • First Aid & CPR
  • Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Certificate
  • Backcountry Trail Construction & Maintenance
  • Chain Saw Training
  • Chipper Safety & Training
  • Flora and Fauna Identification
  • Leave No Trace
  • Map and Compass Course
  • Power Tools Safety and Operation
  • Safety Stand Down
  • Salmon Restoration Program Training
  • ServSafe Food Handler Certification
  • ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification
  • Small Engine Repair
  • Trail Construction and Maintenance