JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
Volunteers recently helped the 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron relocate pollinator plants from the Bethel Park Pollinator Garden to the nature trail on Joint Base Langley-Eustis.
Once an old dumping ground, the pollinator garden was installed at Bethel Park in 2014 in accordance with the National Public Lands Day project to help clean up the area. The garden plants provided food or habitat for pollinator organisms such as hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and occasionally small mammals.
A grant from the National Environmental Education Foundation and the Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program awarded funds to 633rd CES personnel to plant a garden, however, due to the location of the garden, it has been underutilized by the public and overgrown with weeds.
“We get a lot more volunteer support in maintaining the nature trail than we do with the garden at Bethel Park,” said Alicia Garcia, 633rd CES natural resources program manager. “I think it would be easier for us to capitalize on our volunteer base that we already have to maintain this area if we move them to the nature trail.”
The plants will be placed along the walkways of the nature trail to be seen by visitors, as well as provide adequate support to the ecosystem throughout the trail.
Relocating the pollinator plants will increase the biodiversity within the nature trail, consequently increasing the resources for the wildlife as well.
“Pollinator plants provide a good attraction for birds,” said Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Mark Sopko, Hampton Roads Bird Club member. “The plants bring the birds in with their berries and seeds, and the ecosystem and environment benefits from that interaction.”
The nature trail is not only an enriching environment for wildlife, Joint Base Langley-Eustis members can enjoy the resources that the trail provides as well.
“The best thing to do is come out, take your time and enjoy the trail,” said Sopko. “Being out in the environment can do everyone some good, and if you see a piece of trash, pick it up. Volunteer to keep the trail clean and healthy.”
Sopko noted the unique role military bases take when it comes to wildlife. The base acts as refuge for animals by protecting the land, and enforcing strict laws on pollution and Environmental Protection Agency policies.
“Some of the best places in the world to find wildlife in their natural habitat are at military refuges,” said Sopko. “It’s an unintended benefit.”
Garcia and Sopko encourage members of the JBLE community to volunteer and help keep the land healthy for the environment and the wild life.
“People are really eager to plant plants and create pollinator gardens,” said Garcia. “But the big need is long-term maintenance to help them survive, thrive, and really enhance the environment out there so we can see more wildlife on the trail.”