NEWS | Feb. 17, 2020

Basura Bash brings out hundreds of volunteers to clean up Salado Creek

By David DeKunder 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Hundreds of dedicated volunteers came out on a cool, crisp morning Feb. 15 to help clean up an important waterway that runs through Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston during the annual community-wide Basura Bash.

Approximately 300 volunteers turned out at Salado Creek Park, located at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, for the Basura Bash, a one-day, all volunteer event to clean the San Antonio Watershed, which includes Salado Creek. This was the tenth year JBSA-Fort Sam Houston has participated in the Basura Bash.

Sarah Otto from the 802nd Civil Engineer Squadron and Basura Bash organizer said turnout was lower than in years past but that the volunteers who participated did their part in helping to clean up and beautify a one-mile portion of Salado Creek.

“They did a good job,” Otto said. “The park looks really good.”

Edward Roberson, 802nd Civil Engineering Squadron chief, kicked off the event by giving the welcoming remarks to the volunteers.

Service members, including Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen, worked with families and members from community organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and students from Cole Middle and High School in picking up all sorts of trash and debris from Salado Creek.

Volunteers were provided with gloves, bags and other equipment to pick up the trash and debris. For those volunteers who wanted to go into the creek and clean up the tons of trash in the waterway, kayaks were made available for their use.

Master Sgt. Christeana Schwartz, 383rd Training Squadron senior enlisted advisor, was amongst a group of volunteers from the 59th Training Group who were picking up trash along Salado Creek. The 383rd TRS is under the 59th TRG.

Schwartz said she volunteered to help clean the creek because of her son, who comes to Salado Creek Park often to play.

“My son comes out here and plays at this park and we’ve noticed (the trash),” Schwartz said. “Then I saw an email that said, ‘Hey, come out and help us cleanup.’ So, I figured what better way to keep it safe and clean for my kid then to come out here and help clean it up.”

Airman Basic Brandon Whittaker, 381st Training Squadron student, rolled up his sleeves and got in a kayak to help cleanup a portion of the creek that was inundated with trash and debris. He said he was happy to do his part to help the environment along with his peers from the training squadron.

“We had a great turnout here today,” Whittaker said. “We’re getting a lot done and we’re having fun while doing it. I just know I’m playing my part in keeping the environment clean. It’s just good to see a whole bunch of people here trying to help the environment, cleanup the community. That’s always a good thing.”

Ed Vogel, 802nd Civil Engineering Squadron environmental toxic program manager, said trash and debris collected in and around the creek included wood, pallets, paint cans, needles and a tire. But mostly, he said, he was collecting bags of trash gathered by volunteers.

The effects of storm water runoff are one reason the Basura Bash creek clean-up is necessary. Storm water runoff occurs when precipitation comes down faster than soils can soak it up and the rain flows over the ground. Impervious surfaces like driveways, sidewalks and streets prevent stormwater runoff from naturally soaking into the ground.

Storm water can pick up debris, chemicals, dirt and other pollutants before it flows into a storm sewer system or directly to a lake, stream, river, wetland or coastal waterway. Anything that enters a storm sewer system is discharged, untreated, into the bodies of water that are used for swimming, fishing and providing drinking water.

Otto said the Basura Bash is an event that is making a difference in helping to keep the environment clean and keeping trash from contaminating and polluting waterways.

“It makes a lot of difference because we pick up this trash,” Otto said. “If we don’t pick it up here, it doesn’t stay here. It keeps going on down the river into our waterways, into our drinking water, into the lakes. It affects the fish population, the turtles and the wildlife around the creek.”

The JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Basura Bash was part of a larger effort throughout San Antonio that saw local residents, community groups and organizations collecting trash from 8 a.m. to noon Feb. 15 at 22 different locations that connect to San Antonio’s watershed.