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Environmental Management Division finds use for discarded Christmas trees

By Pfc. Nik S. Phongsisattanak | | January 20, 2012

For the past five years, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune patrons have been contributing to the dune restoration at Onslow Beach.

The Environmental Management Division and patrons aboard MCB Camp Lejeune cut down on wastefulness by recycling Christmas trees, which helps preserve the beach.

However, already this year, they have more than enough trees, and EMD asks patrons to bring any remaining trees to the recycling and collection center at the base landfill, where it is then typically shredded to mulch.

“It’s safe to say that several hundred trees have been collected at Onslow Beach,” said Martin Korenek, the wildlife manager with Land and Wildlife Resources Section, Environmental Management Division. “Unfortunately, trees will no longer be collected at Onslow Beach this year. There are only so many trees we can put up and so much time to do it.”

Before the mission to protect the beach began, the EMD conducted surveys in various areas on the beach to locate where sand dunes were being pushed back or were diminishing.

Patrons efforts have helped protect and save the beach so it can be used for recreation, but it also ensures that the animals, such as the Loggerhead and Green sea turtles, that inhabit the beach have a place to breed and thrive. Mature sea turtles return to the beach from which they hatched to mate and lay eggs of their own.

A family line of turtles may have been residents for longer than the Marines aboard the base. There are also service members who bring their children to the beach to collect things, such as sea shells and fossilized megalodon. Losing the beach would be a loss for base patrons as well as the local creatures.

“Using sand fences is an artificial way of trying to create the same effect as dune grass,” said Korenek. “The grass will stop the wind and collect sand that is blown. This is the way the dunes grow, but storms surges can pound those dunes back and flatten them out. Sand fences made of wood and wiring will trap that drifting sand, but it is expensive and it’s a little labor intensive.”

The cost-effective solution was to use discarded Christmas trees.

“I feel that this is one of the smartest ways to maintain our beaches,” said Korenenk. “(Instead of paying) more than $30 per tree and throwing them away, they are used to help build sand dunes to preserve the beach. They are great barriers.”

The EMD’s resourcefulness and eco-friendly strategy is one the reasons why Onslow Beach is well maintained so patrons and animals aboard the base can enjoy it together.

Official tree collecting dates for next year’s dune restoration are not currently available, but the collection typically starts after the new year.

For information on Environmental Management Division, call 451-5003.