Camp Lejeune, State Park work together to diffuse Bear Island

9 Sep 2010 | Lance Cpl. Victor A. Barrera

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune takes no risks when it comes to people’s lives and well-being.

Camp Lejeune range control personnel recently discovered an illumination flare that had strayed from its prescribed area and landed near Bear Island. While recovering it, they decided to see if there was anything else under the sand and waters near North Carolina State Park Hammock’s Bay.

Base officials flew by helicopter and used a metal-sensitive scanner to find hidden metallic objects under the sand and water.

Although it has not been confirmed that the metal objects are unexploded ordnance, William Schulz, range development project officer with Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune said the base will not ignore the issue and put lives at risk. Working with Bristol Range and UXO Services and state park personnel, Camp Lejeune is ensuring that Bear Island and the surrounding waterways will be cleared of any metallic objects by Dec. 5.

Finding and removing the objects on a state park can pose some risks if not handled correctly, and that is where the park rangers step in. The park rangers are guardians of all the wildlife, both on land and in the ocean within the Hammock’s Beach area.

The rangers are there to ensure that the wildlife, which includes the sea beach amaranth, countless birds and aquatic life, are safe during the controlled demolitions, which will be set to remove the metallic objects.

“The clearing is taking place this time of year because turtle season and many of the birds’ mating seasons are now over, and the explosions won’t hurt them,” said Jake Vitak, a state park ranger at Hammock’s Beach. “We will also ensure that people who come here to fish or visit don’t get too close to the work that Bristol will be doing here.”

Along with protecting the animals and visitors of the park, the rangers will also work alongside soil analysts to ensure that after all the materials have been detonated or removed, the soil won’t leave behind any hazardous traces.

“We are trying to do all of this with as little impact on the environment as possible,” said Schulz. “With the sea turtle and nesting bird season over, this is the perfect time of year to do this.”