JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas –
When Harry Gilbert was in high school, he was stomped by a bull. It broke many bones, harmed his head and neck, and left him with arthritis, making him ineligible to join the military. But that didn’t stop him from serving the military community. Gilbert is currently the general manager of Joint Base San Antonio-Canyon Lake.
Gilbert and the staff members at JBSA’s recreation park at Canyon Lake have been working throughout the pandemic to ensure military members and their families are resilient, despite a challenging year.
“We try to have multiple activities per month. Right now we’re doing lake cruises,” he said. “We have kayak classes, boat driving courses, camping programs, we held the Laking It Easy program that they did for the base out here, arts and crafts for the children, and we’ve got about 40 brand new programs that we are going to start doing.”
The staff members at the lake have worked hard to come up with plenty of ideas for activities the rest of this year and into 2021, from stargazing to Dutch oven classes, fishing trips, paddle boarding classes, car shows, a chili cook-off, and day trips to other places in Texas, Gilbert said. But they will only have the programs if they can do so safely.
The JBSA-Canyon Lake team has been working hard to balance the need for COVID-19 precautions with the need to keep up community morale.
“Outdoors is healthier for you. It gets your spirits up,” Gilbert said. “It’s a place to burn off stress and the everyday trials from when you’re on duty or you’re at work. You’ve got to have that release.
“We try to set up our programs where you can be more active,” he said, adding that the programs at the lake are really hands-on and meant to get families to interact.
The staff members at the lake have taken many precautions to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, Gilbert said. They have limited the number of people who are allowed in the park at one time; groups cannot consist of more than 10 people; every hour, staff members sanitize restrooms; and in the country store, one door serves as an entrance and another door serves as an exit. The front desk and door handles are also constantly being cleaned.
As required, all JBSA-Canyon Lake employees must wear facemasks, and in lodging, housekeepers wear personal protective equipment to deep clean the units after use, and they do not enter the cabins for 24 hours after guests vacate, Gilbert said.
“So far, we haven’t had a COVID-19 case track back to us, so that’s really good,” he said. “I’m very proud of that.”
2020 has been tough on many people nationwide, having been forced to stay away from each other, but Gilbert sees it as his mission to bring people together, safely, and help them not feel like they are in lockdown.
“We’re all family, and I’m kind of old, so I still believe that,” he said. “That’s how we treat everyone. My employees have the same mindset, so we do everything we possibly can to take care of the community, everyone’s brothers, everyone’s sisters, and that’s the way it should be. I think life would be a little easier if it was.”