Early Saturday morning, Fort Meade celebrated National Public Lands Day by clearing out invasive plants and replanting native vegetation around the installation.
NPLD is the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer event for public lands.
“It brings together hundreds of thousands of individual and organizational volunteers to help restore the country’s public lands,” said Maribeth Gravunder, environmental engineer for the Directorate of Public Works. “These are the places people use for outdoor recreation, education and enjoyment.”
This year marks the 24th annual celebration of NPLD.
“Our main concern is making sure the water that’s going into the Chesapeake Bay isn’t polluted,” said Takeisha Walker, managing DPW for the garrison.
A few months ago, DPW applied for a grant with a partnership that DoD has with the National Environmental Education Foundation in order to facilitate the public landscape event on post.
“There are 2,600 events this year around the country with about 200,000 volunteers doing all types cleanups like removing invasive plants and trash from streams,” Gravunder said.
“We’re cleaning out invasive plants, Chinese bush clovers and weeds, and replacing them with Black-Eyed Susans [Maryland’s state flower] and some switchgrass, a grass native to the state.
Over 40 volunteers came out to show their support of NPLD, which took place at multiple sites including the parking lot of the Defense Information School.
“The reason why we highlighted the DINFOS building is because we received a lot of complaints about blind corners and the vegetation scratching cars,” Gravunder said. “Plus, this is a highly visible parking lot.”
Among the volunteers who participated were Meade High School students and parents.
“We worked with the school liaison to get the word out to them,” Gravunder said. “They can get student-learning hours out of this, plus it’s a great opportunity for them to learn.”
Participants in Saturday’s NPLD cleaned out storm water facilities by pulling weeds, trees and Singapore plants, and replenishing fresh mulch.
“Storm water has to be managed at the point of discharge,” Gravunder said. “Meaning, when it hits the ground it goes right into the stream facility. We want the rainwater to infiltrate into groundwater and not pond the facilities because we’ll have other issues like mosquitoes and flooding.
“This is why we’re taking out trees. These trees are way too big for a parking lot. Right tree, right place.”
Gravunder hopes to continue the cleanup next year with an even broader volunteer crew.
“This is step one of the multistep vitalization of these facilities to put natives [natural plants] back,” Gravunder said. “We’re learning today by taking action.”