SAN ANTONIO -- U.S. Army Installation Management Command and Army Environmental Command employees traded in business casual clothes for gardening gloves and jeans and got to work polishing their newest "installation," John James Park near Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Volunteers from the two commands and the city of San Antonio gathered to celebrate Earth Day and IMCOM's official adoption of the 90-acre park, marked by a tree dedication. Distinguished guests included the Hon. Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment; Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, commanding general of IMCOM; Col. Scott Kimmel, commander of USAEC; Ray Lopez, San Antonio councilman and mayor pro-tem; and representatives from the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department.

Lopez first read the proclamation of IMCOM's adoption of the park, welcomed IMCOM to "Military City, U.S.A" and noted, "As citizens, we are encouraged to become trustees of the earth."

Hammack, Lynch, Kimmel and Lopez used golden shovels to dedicate the young palo verde tree, which will grow to 25 feet in height when fully mature. The desert tree thrives in arid environments like San Antonio because it requires little water, lining up with the Army's commitment to sustainability, said Laurie Decker, chief of USAEC public affairs.

"Thank you for your tree choice - it is an import from Arizona, and I too, was an import from Arizona when I came to the Army," Hammack said. "There has been a lot of focus in the Army on BRAC and moving people and buildings ... but we also have a responsibility to protect the environment surrounding those buildings."

IMCOM's new headquarters buildings on Ft. Sam Houston, adjacent to the park, were constructed using 25 percent recycled materials, said Lynch. A 15,000-gallon underground cistern will collect rainwater to irrigate Texas-native plants and trees surrounding the buildings. A majority of the appliances and systems inside are energy-efficient. Lynch encouraged individuals to do their part to save energy, too, by simply turning off the lights when they leave a room and picking up trash.

"When we were leaving the hotel this morning, we turned off the light, even though we won't have to pay the light bill," he said, "because it's the right thing to do."

The Army Medical Command Band played "America the Beautiful" and "The Army Song" before volunteers broke off to pull weeds, plant palms and cacti and pick up trash. The park includes a playground, picnic area, softball and soccer fields, fitness equipment and a half mile of hard and soft trails.

IMCOM employee Lynn Odom, Ph.D., who enjoys gardening in her spare time, said volunteering was simply "doing the right thing."

"It's about paying respect to the Earth and having that private moment of knowing God created this," she said. "It's knowing our stewardship is expected."

Earth Day was established by Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin and advocate for the environment. After touring the ruined Santa Barbara coastline after a major oil spill, he declared April 22, 1970 the first Earth Day. Today, 1 billion people the world over observe Earth Day by cleaning parks, planting trees and restoring habitats.

The Army's theme for Earth Day 2011 is "Sustaining the Environment for a Secure Future; Net Zero 2011." The Army is a leader in sustainability and IMCOM is excited to spread those ideas across the world, Lynch said.

"We want to give them [our grandchildren] an environment they can be proud of," he said. "If we don't do it today, we won't have it tomorrow. Let's make Earth Day a daily event."

Page last updated Tue April 26th, 2011 at 16:30