MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- The Piranha Pit just got a makeover. The air station’s popular biking and running trail was renovated by a group of 10 volunteers, in an event organized by the Natural Resources Division, Environmental Affairs Department on Saturday.
The upgrades included building two new bridges to replace aging structures and rerouting the trail away from a section that had begun to erode. From years of use and weather, roots under the trail had become exposed and the trail itself had become from erosion sloped, said Brian Stoll, a native of Morehead City and volunteer on the project.
“There was a place on the trail that was eroding,” said Steve Shephard, the station forester for Cherry Point. “Instead of using a trail going straight downhill, we built a new trail along the contour lines and covered up portions of the old trail. Hopefully, the erosion will stop once the trail is covered.”
Once a year, the National Environmental Education Foundation, an organization that complements the Environmental Protection Agency, holds National Public Lands Day, which was held this year on September 29. The program includes a grant program which provided $1700 directly to the vendor supplying the materials for the improvements, which included lumber, tools, and hardware, said Carmen Lombardo, the natural resources manager for the Environmental Affairs Department. Tools purchased included rakes, shovels, and a post-hole digger.The work, however, was all volunteered.
Master Sgt. Joshua Hillbrand, the Marine Air Control Group 28 detachment staff noncommissioned officer with the 26 Marine Expeditionary Unit, worked on the trail all day Saturday. He said he uses the trail about four times a week, and was glad to be able to get some work done on it.
“Many Marines use this trail besides mountain bikers,” Hillbrand said. “This is something we are glad we can do to keep this trail safe and enjoyable for more than just the mountain bike crew.”
Most of the volunteers were either active duty military or civilian personnel who work on the airstation. Two of the volunteers were sponsored under existing regulations, said Lombardo.
One of the local residents who came out was John O’Connor, a native of Morehead City, who helped design the trail 12 years ago. He’s been coming out ever since both to maintain and use the trail.
“It’s so cool to watch others ride across the trails you built,” O’Connor said.
The biggest reward for these men who spent their Saturday working was the fact that they were helping everyone who uses the trail. The trail reopened Sunday, and O’Connor said he just wants patrons to “enjoy the trail and enjoy our work.”