Schriever running path now doubles as nature trail
By Scott Prater, Schriever Sentinel
/ Published December 10, 2014
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Team Schriever members who use the base running trail north of the base fitness center may notice something new about the area. The 50th Civil Engineer Squadron installed informational displays at several locations along the paved path Dec 5.
Andy Jensen, former 50 CES environmental flight chief, orchestrated the project prior to his transition to another position at Peterson Air Force Base.
"I worked on the project for more than three years," he said. "A myriad of funding issues and other obstacles prevented us from installing the displays earlier, but we're happy they're finally in place."
The displays are the types people might see at regional nature parks or trails. Ten stations are spread throughout the inner loop of the running trail. Each display contains full-color photographs and text that explains a specific feature about the landscape here.
Doug Chase, 50 CES environmental engineer put the finishing touches on the nature-trail project when he attached the displays to their frames Dec. 5. He's confident that once people stop and read the signs, they won't look at the Schriever landscape the same way again.
"I look at it as cultural enrichment," he said. "I think when most people get out there on the trail, it's easy for them to take the scenery for granted. People need a place to run or walk their dogs, but the idea that there is a vibrant ecosystem at work out there might never cross their minds."
Take the prairie dogs for example. They are easy to spot in many places on base. On the surface, their homes look like small holes in the ground. But, in this case in particular, looks are definitely deceiving.
One of the first nature-trail displays people can see on the running path shows a graphical representation of the prairie dogs' underground labyrinths. It also explains how the animals can burrow as far as 10-feet below the surface, creating distinctive caves for food storage, family dwellings and waste disposal.
Other signs provide life and behavior descriptions for a multitude of animals indigenous to the area, like snakes, coyotes, hawks and other predators. But, Jensen was careful to also include cultural displays that explain how our ancestors lived on Colorado's short-grass prairie.
For example, the Ute, Kiowa and Shoshone tribes used fire management techniques to both create safety areas around their settlements and entice herbivores to the short grass nearby.
Jensen performed a lot of research and worked diligently to obtain the most accurate information possible for the displays.
"I think the more people know about the history and the unique qualities of a place, the more they are connected to it," he said. "There's a lot more than meets the eye at Schriever. The short-grass prairie is full of surprises."
The displays are built to last as well. Jensen saved all of the information and 50 CES has the capability to reprint signs at a very low cost while maintaining high quality.
"Schriever's future natural resources professionals can continue to add signs or change them out with a completely new set of information if they so desire," Jensen said. "For those who don't run, it will take a relatively long walk around the running path to see all of the displays, but maybe it will provide an incentive for people to complete the whole trail."