NEWS | May 2, 2022

MTC marks Earth Day with trail dedication, garden planting

By Mike Vrabel | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Staff assigned to multiple directorates at Maneuver Training Center Fort Pickett gathered to rededicate the Joy Nature Trail after extensive renovations April 22, 2022, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The event was part of the installation’s Earth Day commemoration, and was led by Col. Timothy D. Pillion, the Maneuver Training Center Fort Pickett garrison commander. 

The recreational trail is dotted with signage identifying local species of plants and trees, and can be used for a leisurely stroll or as an exercise trail. Part of the recent renovations included expanding the trail to make it a little longer. 

Pillion thanked Lt. Col. James Shaver, Chief of Plans, Training and Security for MTC, and Brandon Martin, the installation’s natural resource manager, for making the trail renovations possible.

“This has always been one of my favorite places to run as long as I’ve been coming to Fort Pickett,” said Pillion. “I always thought it would be nice if it was a little bit longer so you could get in a good mile and a half, do a couple laps and run in the shade. So, I talked to Brandon and Lt. Col. Shaver about the possibility of getting some equipment in there and making it a little bit bigger. I told them what I wanted and they came through. Brandon stepped it off and the Integrated Training Area Management guys came in and cleaned the trail up.” 

The original nature trail runs a loop through a wooded area near Dearing Pond. The renovations added a new section, looping completely around the pond. While the original part of the trail is well worn, the new section will take some time and use to become broken in.

“The original trail is established, nice and smooth. We have some work to do on the expansion,” said Pillion. “It’s roughed in. I’m hoping after I’m gone it’ll continue to improve with some bridges over the waterways, and we’ll work that trail down to where it’s nice, established trail there as well.”

Part of the improvements included new signage and a map of the trail near the start and end of the loop. 

Maj. Jason Simulcik, the MTC Headquarters Company commander, gave the trail a spin before the dedication ceremony. 

“I went out there, and I’ll tell you, it’s doing it’s job,” said Simulcik. “I was able to see some toads, some geese, a bumblebee and we got the birds singing. So it’s definitely a good place to go and do your morning PT routine. What I’m really happy about is the collaboration we have. Nature has its place on the garrison, the Soldiers can have their training and it all works really well together.”

After remarks at the dedication, the gathered group spread wildflower seeds along an open area at the trail head as a beautification effort. 

“We’ve got all this land and nice resources here, we need to take advantage of it and try and offer as much as we can to our team here and the units who come to train here,” said Pillion. 

A day earlier, some of the same MTC staff gathered at the site of the recently-demolished old post headquarters to plant seeds in a newly-constructed vegetable garden.

“We did a little victory garden planting over by the post headquarters,” said Pillion. “The recycling folks came up with that idea. We planted tomatoes and some different peppers. That’s for everybody. If you go by and see a ripe tomato, pick it off and take it home with you.”

 The Range Operations staff also built a raised flower bed as part of a beautification project at the Training Support Center. Previous Earth Day events included a tree planting outside of post headquarters in 2021 and a welcome center beautification project in 2019. 

“We’re just trying to continue to grow what we do on Earth Day and take care of the resources we have,” said Pillion. 

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