LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
On Earth Day, Lackland's new adventure trail opened to a crowd of runners eager to traverse the revamped five 1.5-mile paths around Leon Creek.
However, three years ago it was merely a green concept in the minds of 802nd Civil Engineer Squadron environmental engineers.
When presented with the option between capping and fencing a landfill acquired from Kelly Field Annex in 2001 or putting it to use, Jason Rose, chief of restoration program, saw it as a no-brainer.
Following Air Force Instruction 32-7020, the landfill CES acquired had to be cleaned and brought up to Texas Commission of Environmental Quality's standards in order to be repurposed.
"We wanted to utilize this area for something good. Not just a cap, but somewhere people could exercise and have a habitat that supported different species of animals," Rose said. "So, it became a reuse area with trails."
Rose said the idea driving the reuse concept fit well with the fitness-oriented training base.
"Overall, it's a pretty green effort," he said. "Lackland AFB is a training base with a lot of fitness-oriented people. We saw that it added a lot of value."
With this concept in mind, Weston Solution, Inc., a company specializing in troubleshooting environmental restoration, was awarded the $15 million project.
"We wanted someone who could take it a step further," Rose said about selecting the contractor, "and allow us to utilize this area for the long term."
The new nature trail embraces the Environmental Protection Agency trinity of resource conservation: "reduce, reuse, recycle."
Along with low water vegetation growing around the trails, low water usage toilets and faucets in restrooms with solar-powered LED lights reduce energy costs.
Non-potable ground water is reused to irrigate vegetation after it is recycled for use at a ground water treatment plant on Kelly.
The land reuse includes the five, 1.5-mile asphalt trails while incorporating former golf cart paths running north and south of the adventure center and on either side of Leon Creek.
Restoring life to the area was also a big part of the project.
Rose said varying species of short, medium and tall grass and wildflower seeds were planted to represent the area's three ecoregions: Blackland Prairies, South Texas plains and the Edwards Plateau.
"It's really a native-type vegetation that we're putting back there," he said.
Turtles, fish and ducks can be seen along Leon Creek, while a riparian habitat was also constructed along its banks, using more than 400 plants, including tree saplings and shrubs to encourage bird nesting.
The Lackland outdoor adventure center will run the day-to-day operation of the trails, while the 802nd CES will monitor and maintain the area.
The five trails will eventually be color-coded to indicate difficulty levels, with a 500-foot change in elevation from the lowest to highest point over the creek.
Walking, running, bike riding and pets are permitted.