Valerie Matazzoni, a retired Navy veteran, participates in a veteran volunteer project along with the National Parks Conservation Association to help maintain the Prairie Wayside portion of Ebey’s Prairie in Coupeville Monday. Photo by Michael Watkins/Whidbey News-Times

Veterans groups aid in prairie revitialization

More than 30 veteran and active duty personnel helped community members Monday work to revitalize the Prairie Wayside viewing area and trails in Coupeville.

The clean-up and revitalization project was a coordinated effort between the National Park Conservation Association and Mission Continues, a nonprofit veteran service organization that helps transitioning service members have an impact on their local community.

Rob Smith, a member of the association, said the National Park Service has more than a $12-billion backlog in deferred maintenance projects. National parks in Washington state account for $512-million of that amount.

“This is a great opportunity to highlight the needs of the National Parks as well as the need for veterans, some suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, to get out into and enjoy the national parks while contributing to their community,” Smith said.

Doug Pfeffer, the Seattle impact manager for Mission Continues, said the event was a great way for veterans to connect with each other while getting out and having the opportunity to be leaders in their community.

The volunteer group spent the day cutting and clearing overgrown brush that had blocked the view of Ebey’s Prairie from the Prairie Wayside parking area on Engle Road. In addition, a smaller group broke off to reestablish the accessibility of the Prairie Overlook Trail on the other side of the prairie.

Active duty sailors from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island also volunteered their time, including Capt. Geoffrey Moore, the base’s commanding officer — who also brought his family.

Craig Holmquist, a retired National Park Service member, said national parks are seeing record numbers of tourists and it is important that funding comes through to help restore and maintain the nation’s national treasures.

“This is America’s common ground,” said Smith. “There has been so much disagreement in the country. It doesn’t matter who you voted for when it comes to our national parks. These are the places people come to enjoy the outdoors and enjoy each other.”

Geoff Moore, left, the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island commanding officer, spends his Martin Luther King Jr. holiday with his family participating in a veteran volunteer project along with the National Parks Conservation Association to help clean up the Prairie Wayside portion of Ebey’s Prairie in Coupeville Monday. Photo by Michael Watkins/Whidbey News-Times

Thomas Skurnick, a second class petty officer from NAS Whidbey Isand, helps to restore the prairie overlook trail at Ebey’s National Historical Reserve, Monday in Coupeville.The project was part of a veteran’s group project along with members of the National Park Conservation Association to help out with a backlong of needed maintenance in the National Park System. Photo by Michael Watkins/Whidbey News-Times

Photo by Michael Watkins/Whidbey News-Times Ian Reid, left, a volunteer, and Thomas Skurnick, a second class petty officer from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, help to restore the Prairie Overlook Trail at Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve Monday in Coupeville.

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