MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The Morongo Basin is home to dozens of species of animals, insects and plant life. The Combat Center is located in the middle of this delicate system and is dedicated to its preservation. In celebration of Earth Day, the Combat Center’s Armed Services YMCA partnered with the Mojave Desert Land Trust and Morongo Basin Transit Authority for a cleanup project in Joshua Tree.
More than 120 Marines, families, kids and local citizens volunteered to help clean up the Gateway Parcel, Saturday. The event drew local residents and Combat Center service members, some of which were able to attend the event because of the services provided by the MBTA.
Section 33 was purchased through a partnership of the Combat Center and MDLT one year ago and has been preserved as a site for the community to enjoy.
“We gathered here today to clean and restore this land, which often has trash blowing on it,” said Danielle Segura, executive director, MDLT. “There are more than a dozen species of animals, from insects to bobcats. As we’re out on the land we try to teach the volunteers how to interact with the land.”
This was the second year the clean-up event was held on Section 33. The volunteers worked together to cleaned the area of wind-blown trash and cleaned up unwanted debris spread across 640 acres. By the end of their day, they had gathered 300 bags of trash.
However, the event was more than a volunteering opportunity. It was an opportunity for a family outing.
"It’s a really good thing for families to do,” said Laura Scotto, special events and volunteer coordinator, ASYMCA. “It’s not just entertainment; they’re giving back and having fun.”
The cleanup brought members of the base and local community together. Residents from the surrounding area said they were happy the area was being preserved.
Crystal Wysong, a local member of the community, said she was afraid this land would be home to future development, like so much of the surrounding area. The land was in view of her house and she was glad it was being preserved.
“This is our back yard,” Wysong said.
In addition to individual support, many of the surrounding businesses also contributed to the event. Local stores provided food and supplies to aid the Earth Day effort.
“It’s always really great to work with different organizations within the community,” Scotto said. “We tell them what we do and see what they do.”
Just down the road, at the Hi-Desert Nature Museum in Yucca Valley, Calif., another Earth Day event was being held.
The Earth Day Fair was filled with nearly 50 vendors, one of which was the Combat Center's Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Division.
NREA staff distributed information to the public about the base’s environmental efforts, with displays and informative reading material.
“We have set up a display area of all the process that we do in relation to range debris recycling,” Norman Troy, supervisor unexploded ordnance specialist, NREA. “We show what shape and form they come, what we turn them into and what we take away.”
NREA’s work helps further the base in training and economically. Through recycling of materials such as brass and proper management of hazardous materials, the base saves money and preserves land for future training.
“We are saving the world in our own way,” Troy said. “We are bringing a product that is otherwise going to sit in the ground for 30 years and breaking it down into its basic elements. The money we generate can go back into [this program], prolonging it to last years to come, and puts money back into the Marine Corps.”
The Combat Center’s Earth Day events continued through the week with a 5K Earth Day run and NREA-sponsored fair on the base today.