By Molly Hayden, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr Public Affairs July 9, 2013
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- The community had a unique opportunity to view rarely seen regions of the Grafenwoehr Training area, here, June 26.
More than 20 local nationals, Department of the Army civilians and family members hopped on a bus for a window and walking tour sponsored by the Directorate of Public Works.
Resident experts Margit Ranz and Caecilia Meier, geo-ecologist and environmental specialist for DPW, respectively, led the tour offering tidbits of history and environmental facts about the area.
Participants first toured the sanitary landfill and recycling area just off Tower Barracks before driving by the Roethelweiher and Range 132 for an ornithology lesson.
Meier explained that the Roethelweiher was a very large lake until the 17th century when the dam broke. Now the lake is much smaller, but the remaining area is one of the largest transitional bogs in the local area and houses the rare snipe bird.
Approximately 900 breeding pairs of snipes remain in Bavaria; 100 pairs are estimated to live at Grafenwoehr Training Area.
The tour continued with a drive by Erzhaeusel, a now abandoned site that once extracted iron ore, and continued to the abandoned village of Haag, now home to numerous bat cellars.
Training Soldiers peered from the other side of the glass as the bus wheeled past Range 301 and continued to Hopfenohe, where a recent archeological excavation unearthed a dilapidated guesthouse.
The 1.5-mile nature trail near Dickhaeuter Lake and the new Outdoor Recreation facility was also highlighted. The trail allows interested parties to effectively explore the surrounding area by obtaining information from 16 informational boards posted along the path. The trail opened for community use in 2010 and continues to highlight environmental conservation of the land.
The tour concluded with a lesson on the habitats of beavers within the area.
According to Ranz, between 250 and 300 beavers call the training area home -- at times creating flooded landscapes.
The tour spotlighted the environmental work DPW is currently doing to preserve nature and wildlife of the training area, as well as give participants a glimpse of yesteryear by providing information on the lives of the townspeople who once inhabited this area.