JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
A chilly Saturday morning start didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the volunteers who came out early Feb. 18 to help clear out accumulated trash at the Salado Creek Park at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston during the annual Basura Bash.
Now in its 12th year at JBSA, the cleanup is part of a citywide effort at 25 locations to collect tons of trash from the creek beds and tributaries that flow into the San Antonio River. It is the largest one-day river clean-up in Texas.
The JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Basura Bash is part of a larger effort throughout San Antonio where local residents, community groups and organizations collect trash at locations connected to San Antonio’s watershed. It is hosted by the 802nd Civil Engineer Squadron and supported by the MWR Outdoor Recreation Staff, the Heavy Repair Shop, and many other individuals representing their units across JBSA.
“Although the number of volunteers was lower than usual this year because of the three-day weekend, we still make up about 20% of the volunteers throughout the city,” said Ed Roberson, chief of the environmental management section of the 802nd Civil Engineer Squadron. “We can’t do this without volunteers and we appreciate each and every one who comes out.”
Ten members of the Karibeños Motorcycle Club's San Antonio chapter were among the volunteers.
"This is the fifth time we have volunteered at the Basura Bash," said Juan "Gunny" Gomez. " We volunteer at a lot of events throughout San Antonio and Austin. About 95% of our members are military veterans."
“Our efforts go a long way to protecting wildlife habitats, maintaining the quality of our drinking water, and keeping our recreation areas safe, said Sarah Otto, an 802nd Civil Engineer Squadron environmental management specialist and tributary leader for the location. “However, there is more that we can do by stopping trash before they get to the creeks.
“Most of the trash and debris we see in our waterways has traveled via wind and stormwater runoff to get there, sometimes from miles away,” Otto added. “Whenever stormwater flows upon the surface instead of soaking into the ground, it goes to our creeks and rivers, picking up trash and debris along the way.”
Stormwater runoff transports trash from streets, including larger items, such as tires, furniture, or broken appliances left on the side of the road, as well as the chemicals on lawns and driveways, and waste from pets. Even soil and grass clippings can have an adverse effect on the aquatic life in waterways.
Gloves, trash bags, and water were provided for all volunteers and kayaks were made available for use during the clean-up, provided by MWR. Basura Bash is sponsored by 16 public- and private-sector organizations, including Waste Management, the city of San Antonio, Bexar County, the San Antonio River Authority and H-E-B.
Since its inception in 1995, Basura Bash helpers have removed items as small as cigarette butts and as large as a Ford pick-up truck from the river. In 2005, organizers added a recycling component to the event.
Beyond conserving the waterways’ natural resources and protecting their flora and fauna, the Basura Bash serves to educate volunteers and the general public on proper waste disposal, ways to reduce trash, and recycling.
“We need to be good stewards of the environment,” Roberson 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. What we do here makes a difference.”