SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Volunteers from the U.S. Army Environmental Command recently weathered the heat to cool down some trees as they combined forces with local volunteers to mulch trees in San Antonio’s John James Park.

“We mulched around 100 trees, including the tree the Army and community leaders planted for Earth Day last April,” said Meredith Ruiz, park community service liaison supervisor. “Having a layer of mulch around the trees helps retain water in drought conditions.”

Approximately 20 USAEC volunteers helped park officials and local community members distribute mulch around both established and newer trees to help protect them and beautify the entire area.

“The tree we planted for Earth Day this year is a thornless retama and it’s doing quite well,” said Ruiz. “Our relationship with the Army is growing very quickly and is important to Parks and Rec as well as our community.”

“This event is helping to build on a relationship started last April during the Earth Day celebration held at John James Park and hosted by USAEC and the Installation Management Command,” said Julie Jeter, one of USAEC’s fish and wildlife biologists. “This is incredibly important work and [it's] imperative we work together with the community to help support and preserve land that is here for all to enjoy now and for future generations.”

According to Jeff Creekmore, park liaison to the city of San Antonio, it’s helping tremendously for Army and local community people to pick up trash and support the planning of future park events.

Ms. Teanna Staggs brought her daughter, Molly, from Girl Scout Troop 559, and her son, who represented Boy Scout Troop 358, to the event.

“I try to instill a sense of community spirit and service in my children and I thought by working on something for the community’s common good they would learn a lesson about life and clean up the park at the same time,” she said.

According to Ruiz, the Parks and Recreation staff hopes to do more with Army volunteers -- such as remulching, adding a xeriscape and placing benches along the trails -- in the fall. USAEC plans to officially adopt John James Park as part of the city’s Adopt-A-Park program.

“Once we sign a memorandum of agreement, or MOA, between the Army and the Parks department, the Adopt-A-Park process will be complete,” she said. “A sign at the park entrance announcing the partnership is part of the agreement and more help from USAEC personnel will allow staff at John James to put more time and resources into other parks that need help.”

John James Park is located on the east bank of Salado Creek, very close to Fort Sam Houston, home of USAEC. The park consists of almost 90 acres with rentable softball and soccer fields, half-mile soft and hard walking trails and restrooms.

The park began as a gift from the federal government in 1973 under the Federal Land Surplus program. Originally known as Fort Sam Houston Park, it was renamed for John James in 1974. As Bexar County's chief surveyor, James established the boundaries of San Antonio in 1846. He is said to have measured more land in Texas than any other individual surveyor.

The U.S. Army Environmental Command is the armed forces' premier environmental organization, sustaining military readiness and communities world-wide. The headquarters recently moved from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland to Fort Sam Houston, Texas as a result of a Base Realignment and Closure 2005 congressional mandate.

For more information on John James Park, please call 207-8603. For more information on USAEC, visit