Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
More than 200 volunteers from the Combat Center community joined with others from across the Morongo Basin for an annual clean-up operation of Joshua Tree National Park Sept. 29, 2012.
The clean-up was in honor of National Public Lands Day, which celebrates the public lands, like national parks, Americans have available for their use year-round.
“It’s a day set aside that’s a good day for people to give back to those public lands they enjoy and use frequently,” said JTNP Park Ranger Dave Carney. “They literally belong to everybody in the U.S. People need to understand why the parks are here and take enjoyment of them.
“There is no better demonstration of that than events like this where people come out and give back,” he said.
The volunteers split up into groups of about 30 and headed out to one of the handful of areas designated by park staff for clean-up. These areas are the ones most commonly used, including camp sites.
The park has been holding community clean-ups like this for years, but this was the first year they reached out specifically to the base for help. They looked to the base’s Armed Services YMCA for coordination. It was a request the ASYMCA jumped at.
“Many times Marines ask for activities to do on the weekends, and many Marines have never been to the national park,” said Anita Neu-Fultz, executive director, ASYMCA. “It was a chance to introduce them to the national park, and at the same time, give them an opportunity to give back to the local community.”
The ASYMCA frequently reaches out through the base’s units for volunteers, and many times has to turn people away once their needed quota is filled. This was not a problem they ran into this time. The park was asking for as many people as the base could provide.
“We have so many Marines wanting to volunteer all the time, and I don’t always have the capacity to let them,” said Sadie Fisher, special events coordinator, ASYMCA. “So, to tell 200 volunteers ‘yes’ was just so great.”
The ASYMCA had been counting on an estimate of 100 Marines, sailors and family members. The response from more than 200 was a pleasant surprise to all the coordinators, both from the ASYMCA and the park. Park officials actually ran out of volunteer registration forms soon after people began arriving for the morning.
The base’s Boy and Girl Scouts also added to the base’s volunteer numbers.
“In the three years I’ve been here, this has been the largest turn-out I’ve seen,” Carney said. “Thanks to the Marines, those numbers increased many fold. “The survival of public lands like these rely on people’s interest,” he said.