Community members help clean Richmond Highway
April 26, 2013
A portion of land belonging to Fort Belvoir is much cleaner today thanks to 63 volunteers who participated in the Richmond Highway Spring Cleanup, Saturday.
Servicemembers, Families and the local community helped fill 70 trash bags with littered items along the portion of U.S. Route 1 between Telegraph Road in Lorton Va., and the Candlewood Suites hotel at 8847 Richmond Highway.
The cleanup, hosted by Fort Belvoir, Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce and Candlewood Suites, recognized the nation's celebration of Earth Day.
"We're coming together to make sure our community looks beautiful," said Garrison Commander Col. Gregory D. Gadson of the relationship between Fort Belvoir and local communities during his remarks.
Participants met at the Candlewood Suites for registration at 8 a.m., and to listen to Gadson's opening remarks. Gadson applauded the volunteers for sacrificing personal time to help collect trash.
"We're not distinct communities, we're one community," Gadson said. "It's fitting that we're out here together."
After Gadson's remarks, volunteers split into teams and traveled to various locations to pick up trash.
For safety, the Virginia Department of Transportation provided garbage bags and highly visible safety vests. Fairfax County Policemen also traveled behind volunteers to force oncoming traffic to travel around the participants. Volunteers collected bottles, cigarette butts, tire rubber and clothing. Participants also picked up broken wood and glass near the highway.
The cleanup makes the area a better place to live, work and play according to Russell Robertson, retired Army colonel and Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce member.
"We want to give our military Families and employees a nice play to work and live," said Russell, who attended the event with his daughter Dana. "Even though it may not be the people at Fort Belvoir littering, the trash gives a bad impression of the post. It's important to keep the place clean and have a place people can be proud about."
Dana used the event to gain community service hours for her South County High School Government Class.
"You see it's dirty so you want to come out and help cleanup," Dana said. "It's kind of a shame that trash is left out here."
This is the 43rd Earth Day celebration, according to www.earthday.org. The observance is intended to raise awareness and education on environmental concerns, such as air and water pollution. Earth Day also promotes outdoor activities and the improvement of the world's sustainability for future generations.
The U.S. Army Environmental Command's Earth Day theme this year is "Acknowledge the Past, Engage the Present, Chart the Future." According to the environmental command's website, the goal is to acknowledge the past by improving Army lands and protecting and preserving cultural and historical resources; engaging the present by meeting environmental standards, enabling Army operations, and protecting Soldiers, civilians and Families; and charting the future by institutionalizing best practices and using technology to ensure future environmental resiliency.
The Army's celebration of Earth Day makes people aware of environmental issues such as planting trees, recycling and cleaning watersheds, according to Cynthia Stringfield, Fort Belvoir Public Affairs Office, acting community relations chief. If the cleanup is a credible sign, the annual celebration of Earth Day is positively impacting the community. The 70 bags volunteers collected this year is less than the 88 bags collected by volunteers during last year's cleanup.
"People are becoming a little more aware of the environment," Stringfield said. "This is good because we don't have to work as hard."
The theme and celebration of Earth Day takes on deeper meaning for Fort Belvoir's leadership this year. With the planned Department of Defense-directed civilian employee furloughs impending, Fort Belvoir doesn't have the resources to spearhead this year's clean-up as the installation has for previous events, according to Stringfield.
The Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce and Candlewood Suites stepped up and helped ensure the event occurred.
Marine Capt. James McLean, Marine Detachment, Fort Belvoir, commander was happy the event occurred as it allowed him and his unit to volunteer.
"A couple Marines asked about volunteer opportunities so we jumped on this opportunity to help keep America beautiful," McLean said. "It's good to have a day each year to remind us what we should be doing every day. Picking up a piece of trash takes like two seconds."