Story and photo by Capt. Kenneth King
Rear detachment commander, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division
Rear detachment Soldiers and Family members of the 1st Battalion 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, volunteered their time at Cheyenne Mountain State Park, west of Fort Carson, helping to pick up trash and harvest environmentally overbearing plants.
The effort was a part of the unit’s THRIVE (training, health, resilience, Improved quality of life, volunteer and education) program, a holistic approach to deployments that encourages Families and rear detachment Soldiers to improve their health and fitness, further their education and volunteer in the community.
The group of Soldiers and Family members spent half their days Aug. 28-29 collecting trash that had been brought into the park from surrounding urban areas, re-seeding casual trails and picking an ecologically overpowering plant called mullein.
The work was not difficult, but much needed to maintain Cheyenne Mountain State Park’s beauty and the health of its wildlife. Kristen Hansen, the park ranger supervising the project, noted that it would have taken the park rangers nearly a month to accomplish what the 1st Bn., 8th Inf. Reg., helped with during the two-day time frame.
Picking up the trash that had been dragged into the park by animals and humans “not only improves the aesthetic beauty of the park but also discourages bears and other animals from entering the surrounding communities,” said Hansen. “As bears and other animals become more familiar with human trash they are more likely to seek it out in people’s backyards.”
The second day of volunteering found the “Fighting Eagles” Soldiers and Family members split into two groups. The first group was put to work seeding casual trails that had been created over time by campers as shortcuts between campsites instead of using park-sanctioned trails. The group seeded the trails and used surrounding debris to block the trails from future use.
Pfc. Canellio Gonzales said that he was “glad to be able to give back to the park since parks like this one are where I spend a lot of my free time hiking and camping.”
The second group that day was given the task of pulling mullein plants. A plant which, in Cheyenne Mountain Park’s dry, sparsely vegetated landscape, can take over specific open spaces and become ecologically harmful to existing plants. The group, after picking several trash bags full of mullein and moving to a different site, happened upon an open area where mullein had started to multiply en masse. It was an area that the group was not even scheduled to pick mullein, but “this is where we earn our pay,” said Spc. Elihu Brooks, and everyone else joined in removing the plant.
Overall, the Soldiers and Family members of the 1st Bn., 8th Inf. Reg., enjoyed the time they spent at Cheyenne Mountain State Park and gained a little appreciation of what they, as volunteers, can do to make a difference in the community. They will be continuing in projects for the THRIVE program throughout the community.