USACE Europe District helps restore the environment while also improving training

A sign indicates the entrance to the tactical training area at the Mainz Sand Dunes Local Training Area near Mainz, Germany, Oct. 22, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Alfredo Barraza)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Europe District completed an important environmental restoration project March 2021 at the Mainz Sand Dunes Local Training Area that also improves and maintains an important training area for Soldiers.

“The U.S. Army is committed to environmental stewardship and takes the environment into consideration when designing, constructing and maintaining its facilities both in the United States and abroad,” said Jill Tefts, the Europe District Environmental Program Manager.

The newly restored area in Mainz helps Soldiers train for various unit tasks and practice driving with different types of off-road tactical vehicles. The project expanded and enhanced the Mainz Sand Dunes training area by restoring the sand dunes to their original natural sandy conditions, removing invasive plants and repairing the dirt trails for a tactical driver’s training course.

“The primary purpose of the work was to maintain the trails so we could have a very usable driver’s training course,” said Jennifer Paterson with the Europe District Environmental Branch. “A side purpose of the work is to protect the natural diversity that is in this training area.”

A thistle plant at the Mainz Sand Dunes Local Training Area near Mainz, Germany, Oct. 22, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Alfredo Barraza)

The Mainz Sand Dunes training area is located within the boundaries of a site designated as a unique flora and fauna habitat by a European Commission directive known as Natura 2000. These specially designated sites are a network of natural areas located throughout Europe created to protect threatened species and habitats. The composition of the fine sands at the training area is nutrient poor, but does allow for the growth of flora unique only to this region. The rare plants that grow here attract birds, beetles, bees, butterflies, and grasshoppers, some of which are endangered.

Patterson worked closely with partners at the Training Support Center Wiesbaden, the Training Support Activity Europe, 7th Army Training Command, and U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden’s Directorate of Public Works Environmental Office to coordinate the removal of invasive vegetation threatening the local ecosystem, as well as ensuring that local wildlife and their habitats were left undisturbed. At the same time the team identified biomass such as logs, tree branches, and tree roots for removal that could pose a safety threat to Soldiers conducting training on the trails.

“Our primary stakeholder is the Soldier, and by expanding the amount of usable land for mounted and dismounted tactical training, the Mainz Sand Dunes Local Training Area will continue to serve as a valuable training site for U.S. Army Europe and Africa Command units to meet their training requirements.” said Bonifus M. Mutia II, Chief of Training Support Center Wiesbaden.

The tactical training area at the Mainz Sand Dunes Local Training Area near Mainz, Germany, Oct. 22, 2020 (U.S. Army photo by Alfredo Barraza)

In addition to an improved driver training area for Soldiers, the improved site and its natural treasures are available to local residents for outdoor recreation as well.

“We are getting more open area back to conduct training.” said Darin Kennedy, Mainz Sand Dunes Local Training Area coordinator. “The environment is restored to its natural state, the local wildlife is protected, Soldiers can conduct driver training safely, and our German neighbors can use the trails by adhering to the safety rules on posted signs for recreational activities such as walking and running. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”

By working closely with U.S. Army environmental specialists, training support specialists, and local German environmental authorities, USACE proves that environmental stewardship can go hand-in-hand with Army readiness.

A bee on a leaf at the Mainz Sand Dunes Local Training Area near Mainz, Germany, Oct. 22, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Alfredo Barraza)

 

A sign post at one of the entrance paths to the tactical training area at the Mainz Sand Dunes Local Training Area near Mainz, Germany, Oct. 22, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Alfredo Barraza)

 

Jennifer Paterson (far left) with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District Environmental Branch surveys a path with members of Training Support Center Wiesbaden, the Training Support Activity Europe, 7th U.S. Army Training Command, and the Wiesbaden Directorate of Public Works Environmental Office at the Mainz Sand Dunes Local Training Area near Mainz, Oct. 22, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Alfredo Barraza)

 

Contactor vehicles grade a path to expand and enhance a training site at the Mainz Sand Dunes Local Training Area near Mainz, Oct. 22, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Alfredo Barraza)