School, Sports Center, and Business Park Protect Compatibility and Enrich Community in South Dakota
When it comes to neighbors, Ellsworth Air Force Base (AFB) won the jackpot. Located in western South Dakota between Rapid City and the City of Box Elder, Ellsworth AFB benefits from the support of a state, county, and local community that are invested in the installation’s long-term mission viability. But together, the installation and its REPI partners are ensuring the benefits flow both ways.
The warm relationship between Ellsworth and the surrounding community owes a lot to the South Dakota Ellsworth Development Authority (SDEDA), which the State Legislature created in 2009. SDEDA’s mission is to work as a liaison between local governments, businesses, citizens, and the installation in order to protect community needs, Ellsworth AFB’s current mission capacity, and the installation’s future growth potential. This charge has resulted in a number of efforts improving the quality of life for civilians and military families within the Ellsworth community.
The 28th Bomb Wing, one of only two B-1B Lancer bomber wings in the world, operates out of Ellsworth’s single runway. In addition to providing access to nine million acres of training airspace, the runway supports regular overseas missions. Because of Ellsworth’s specialized mission, the runway and installation are uniquely vulnerable to incompatible development. While one end of the runway is compatible ranchland, the other end stretches close to the City of Box Elder.
Therefore, SDEDA, Ellsworth AFB, Box Elder, country governments and a local foundation stepped in to protect the installation in a fashion that also enriches the town. In exchange for land within the installation’s Accident Potential Zone (APZ), Ellsworth AFB donated a large parcel outside of the main base and APZ to SDEDA, which then acquired adjacent lands using state funds. SDEDA transferred the nearly 60-acre donation to the local school district, which built a new K-5 elementary school on the property. The school is now in the middle of its second year of operation, and together with the South Dakota National Guard, the school district runs a program to introduce elementary children to science, planes, and space, with special field trips to Ellsworth AFB.
Now, SDEDA is working with the town to design and build a sports complex that will develop the remaining land donated by Ellsworth. Local sports teams are helping fundraising efforts for the facility, which will feature a baseball diamond, soccer fields, and a football field with artificial turf. At the same time, SDEDA is also working with a developer to further protect the base and grow the local economy by creating a “certified ready” business park next to the sports complex. Local government is coordinating with SDEDA to ensure appropriate zoning for the park, and SDEDA is in the process of actively recruiting businesses. While adding economic and social value to the community, the school, sports complex, and business park ensure a long-term solution to the installation’s concerns of incompatible development inhibiting mission flexibility and future encroachment.
Executive Director Scott Landguth summed up his team’s efforts over the last half a decade: “The Authority is very motivated to work on projects that impact the community around the base, specifically if our efforts can improve the quality of life for the local community and our children.”
For more information, please contact:
Glen Kane, South Dakota Ellsworth Development Authority at firstname.lastname@example.org.
McIntosh SEED Community Forest Fosters Resource Education and Economic Development Outside of Fort Stewart
In 1997, a small group of citizens from McIntosh County, Georgia gathered to discuss an unmet need for economic development and environmental and natural resource education in their local community. McIntosh Sustainable Environment and Economic Development (SEED) emerged from this meeting with the mission to “create and sustain healthy and diverse rural communities through community and economic development, community organizing, conservation, and direct services across the Southeast.”
In partnership with The Conservation Fund, the Army, the REPI Program, and a multitude of other partners, the organization purchased over 1,100 acres of land outside of Fort Stewart in 2015 and established the McIntosh SEED Community Forest. Just now entering its second year of operation, the Community Forest is already positively impacting the lives and livelihoods of people across three counties.
According to John Littles, Executive Director of McIntosh SEED, “the Community Forest is helping to incorporate conservation practices into communities of color.” Recently, the Community Forest hosted 75 landowners at demonstration sites for a pilot “university” in forestry best practices, including harvesting and reforestation techniques. With many local landowners growing timber, the Community Forest aims to increase the use of sustainable forestry practices and in doing so increase jobs and productivity in the local timber economy. Over 25 acres of the Community Forest have been restored to longleaf pine as well, demonstrating best management practices and partnerships with federal conservation agencies. Based on the success of the “university,” McIntosh SEED is hoping to develop relationships with local high schools and colleges to spur interest in forestry careers.
In parallel with its forestry education efforts, the Community Forest is building amenities and programs to benefit local youth. A core element of McIntosh SEED’s mission is to provide environmental education and experiences to youth in historically underserved communities of color, in order to build a strong generation of future leaders within local communities. Eagerly anticipating hosting local church and school groups, Boy Scout troops, and other youth groups at the Community Forest, McIntosh SEED is building an archery range and planning to develop a series of nature trails. The trails will provide members of the community access to habitat that is home to over 40 different species of birds as well as bobcats, foxes, and wild turkeys. Eventually, McIntosh SEED plans to build a Community Center, which will serve as the hub for educational, youth engagement, and community
activities. “The McIntosh SEED Community Forest is a new rural model to drive economic development that’s good for nature and good for people,” says Will Allen, the Conservation Fund’s Vice President of Sustainable Programs. “By conserving natural resources and using them sustainably, McIntosh SEED is supporting job creation and small business development, while enhancing outdoor recreational access and providing educational opportunities in agriculture, forestry and landownership.”
While the Community Forest continues to develop and provide opportunities to an estimated 4,000 people in southeastern Georgia, it is also playing an important role as a critical buffer along Fort Stewart’s fence line. Fort Stewart is the largest military installation east of the Mississippi, and conducts live-fire, maneuver, and paratrooper training for up to 50,000 soldiers annually. These activities are sensitive to incompatible development, and the Community Forest ensures a measure of flexibility and certainty for Fort Stewart’s training mission. “We recognize the importance of being a protective buffer for Fort Stewart,” says Littles, “and look forward to working with the installation more.” In the meantime, the McIntosh SEED Community Forest will continue to educate, engage, and serve its community.
For more information, please contact:
John Littles, McIntosh SEED at email@example.com.
Biking Along the Buffer: the Buckley Air Force Base Greenway
Enjoying the outdoor landscape just became a lot easier for the people of Aurora, Colorado. Thanks to a partnership between the Air Force and the Trust for Public Land as well as the city, Arapahoe County, and state governments, the local community of Aurora will soon have access to miles of interconnected recreational trails around Buckley Air Force Base (AFB) for wildlife watching, walking, and biking.
A short distance east of the Colorado statehouse and downtown Denver, Buckley AFB is home to a number of aviation alert, training, and refueling missions. Buckley’s home unit, the 460th Space Wing, serves a unique mission, providing unencumbered “look angles” for antennae to ensure constant communication with space surveillance and missile tracking systems. However, the installation’s diverse mission set has come under pressure in recent years as the rate of urban development increased in proximity to Buckley’s fence line, particularly along the E-470 highway corridor. In fact, development on Buckley’s western boundary recently forced the base to close one of its two runways.
With a decades-long history of collaboration, Buckley AFB and the local community are no strangers to working in partnership. So, when Buckley invited organizations and leaders from the community onto the base in 2014 to explore new opportunities to address issues of compatible land use, it was no surprise that a natural partnership took form.
Seeking to protect Buckley’s unique military mission and the economic activity that it brings to the area, the Trust for Public Land leveraged funding from the REPI Program and the Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to acquire a 124-acre property on the east side of Buckley AFB between the installation and the highly-developed E-470 corridor. The acquisition was made possible by the commitment and contribution of the State of Colorado as well as the partnership of the City of Aurora, which now owns and manages the property. In March 2016, partners at all levels, as well as Congressman Mike Coffman, came together at an event at Buckley AFB to celebrate the completion of the project. The efforts of the partnership will not only ensure that military operations and training can continue without affecting local residents, but also that the community has wide access outdoor
Future efforts plan to build on and add to this first success. The buffer around Buckley AFB will create an interconnected network of new and existing parks and trails, including the future Triple Creek Greenway, a 27-mile open space corridor stretching from the South Platte River in north Denver to the Aurora Reservoir. The buffer will also protect key wildlife habitat, connecting previously isolated habitat areas that will allow wildlife to move outside of the installation’s boundaries and access the Sand, Coal, and Senac Creek ecosystems. All of these planned areas will be open to the public and allow wildlife viewers, walkers, and cyclists to enjoy outdoor recreation right in their backyards.
The collaboration around Buckley AFB is a prime example of how REPI buffer partnerships can improve the lives of local communities while also leading to better outcomes for natural lands and the military. By incorporating community recreation into Buckley AFB’s REPI project, the partners at Buckley AFB are helping to build lasting relationships between local residents and the installation that will ensure a safer, more prosperous community in the future.
“The Trust for Public Land is proud to work with the Air Force, the Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Arapahoe County and Aurora to bring this project to fruition,” said Hillary Merritt, The Trust for Public Land project manager. “The buffer project is a win-win-win project for the local community.”
For more information, please contact:
Kasia Kubiak-Smulka, Buckley Air Force Base at firstname.lastname@example.org and Hillary Merritt, The Trust for Public Land at email@example.com.