PHOENIX -- Under a cloudy sky that had been dropping buckets of rain across the “Valley of the Sun” the night before, members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District’s Arizona/Nevada Area Office joined with exhibitors and vendors at the annual Tres Rios Nature and Earth Festival held Mar. 9 and 10 at the Baseline and Meridian Wildlife Area near the Phoenix International Raceway.
“Yeah, I knew it might be raining this morning and it’s not always fun being out in it; but, I like coming out to talk with people about what we do,” said Vic Bartkus, who works in the Asset Management division. “The people who come to our booth are always interested in our work; but, they don’t always know the variety of work that we do.”
District team members talked with members of the public about projects across the Valley, the state and the LA District, which covers Southern California, all of Arizona, and portions of Nevada and Utah. One of the major local projects the team discussed was the Tres Rios Environmental Restoration Project. The project involved the construction of a flow-regulating wetlands, which provide water for the river’s ecosystem and a restored riparian habitat, and restoration work, which included removal of invasive tree species, along the banks of the Salt River.
The Corps of Engineers, City of Phoenix and contractors involved in the project have won several awards over the course of several years. Among the most recent awards the projects various phases have earned are the 2012 Valley Forward Crescordia Award in the Site Development and Landscape: Public Sector category and the Chief of Engineers Award of Excellence for Environmental Design.
Organizers bill the event as a chance for residents and visitors to “celebrate the rich heritage, ecology, history and wildlife of the Gila, Salt and Agua Fria Rivers.” Over the course of two days, festival attendees can speak with a variety of exhibitors and enjoy activities for adults and kids. Activities include canoeing, catch-and-release fishing and hiking up the nearby Monument Hill. In 1865, the hill was designated by the Astronomical Survey as Arizona’s “Initial Point.” This marked the location of the “zero point” on the grid for the mapping system in the area. It also established the reference point from where the rest of Arizona was surveyed.
Although the rain and had dampened the ground, leaving a bit of a gravely mush for the exhibitors and the attractions, it didn’t dampen the spirits of the District team members who participated at the event. Saturday stayed cold and overcast; but, Sunday’s attendees enjoyed a mild day of Phoenix sun. Organizers said more than 6,000 people attended this year’s event over the course of two days.
“Yes, it was a great time,” Bartkus said. “I always enjoy the opportunity to meet with members of the public and I was glad to talk to everyone who came and visited with us.”