FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (April 19, 2012) -- A brilliant sunny sky and moderate temperatures were the backdrop for the kickoff of Fort Meade's annual Earth Day observance on Tuesday afternoon.

The Directorate of Public Works' Environmental Division hosted a ceremony at Burba Lake before launching four hours of activities geared to educate the community about conservation activities on post and in the region.

In his welcoming remarks, Garrison Commander Col. Edward C. Rothstein told the audience of exhibitors, families and volunteers that making the needed changes to properly care for the earth will not happen overnight.

"It's got to be convenient to us and it's got to be of value," Rothstein said. "So one small step every day and getting our kids involved in a great event like today is what's really going to make the changes necessary for our future."

Guest speakers Roger King, executive officer at the Defense Media Activity, and Thorne Murrell, business and community outreach representative at the Defense Information Systems Agency, each said their respective facilities were constructed in compliance with green building and operating Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design requirements.

After the 45-minute ceremony, Rothstein and Command Sgt. Maj. Charles E. Smith helped to plant a sycamore tree near the lake.

Families gathered at the lake and cottage to view displays from more than 50 post agencies and off-post organizations ranging from Picerne Military Housing and Army Cyber Command to the Environmental Protection Agency, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Clean Air Partners.

Luz Patino, wife of Staff Sgt. Carlos Patino, who works in human resources at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., said she came to the event to learn how she can reduce her utility bills and conserve energy in her Midway Commons home.

"There's a lot of information out there," she said. "You've got to get more educated. People say, 'We have to do something for Earth Day,' but they don't do anything. I would like to."

One exhibit, displayed by the Environmental Division, featured trash found at the Manor View dump site.

In March, a contractor began excavating buried waste from the 10-acre site, which is located near the intersection of MacArthur Road and 2nd Corps Boulevard. The decomposition of organic material in the area is generating methane gas.

Some of the waste on exhibit, such as glassware, soda bottles and an Army canteen, dates back to the 1940s.

Paul Fluck, program manager for the Installation Restoration Program, said about 30 percent of the buried trash at the site has been removed. The $3 million project is scheduled to be completed in May.

The Directorate of Public Works' Engineering Division featured an energy exhibit that included some of the post's conservation projects.

Altramesia Grady, a general engineer, said Fort Meade is in accordance with reducing its energy consumption and implementing renewal energy efforts.

For example, exterior solar panels that do not use the power grid were installed last month at two barracks and at the Youth Center on Ernie Pyle Street.

LED interior lights are now being used in the atrium of DPW's building. Grady said the lights have reduced wattage from 32 to 15.

To help reduce pollution from single-occupancy vehicles and assist commuters dealing with the rising cost of gasoline, Russell Riley, mass transit benefit coordinator, provided information about the Army Mass Transportation Benefit Program.

The program provides active-duty Soldiers, National Guardsmen and Reservists and Department of the Army civilians with $125 per month in transit benefits for specific pre-approved commuter transportation costs, such as the MARC train.

In addition to the various displays, children enjoyed activities such as face painting, a moon bounce and a terrapins exhibit.

Children from the Monarch Academy, a public charter school in Glen Burnie, spent several hours taking turns at a dunking booth that featured Mick Butler, chief of the Environmental Division, in a wet suit as he braved the cold water after each slam.

"It felt good to win the game," an 8-year-old said after dunking Butler. "[But] I don't really feel all that good about dunking the man."

Other exhibitors included members of the Howard County Beekeepers Association, who spoke about honeybees and their beneficial contributions to the food chain through the pollination of crops.

Stevie Wilding, a chemist with the Environmental Protection Agency, helped participants mix their own "earth paste," a nontoxic cleanser made from baking soda, olive oil, water and vinegar.

"It's a fun activity," she said. "You can use it on your kitchen sink or bathroom tile."

But no one seemed to enjoy the day more than Soldiers from First Army Division East and members of the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate and U.S. Army Claims Service, who faced off in a "Pull Green Challenge Tug-of-War."

Standing in a sand pit, First Army wrestled the rope from SJA and Army Claims to win the first round.

"It was tough at first," said Staff Sgt. John Russell of First Army. "But then we started working together and we got in unison."

Capt. Cody Cheek, a claims attorney with SJA, coached his team from the sidelines.

Although SJA and Army Claims didn't win, they were examples of the day's boisterous spirit.

"A lot of guys here never give up," Cheek said. "They never quit."