By Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson, 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 11, 2016
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado, served as a technical training base throughout its nearly 60-year history as an active-duty installation, specializing in aerial photography, intelligence and training for the B-52 Stratofortress. However, Lowry AFB closed its gates Sept. 30, 1994, largely due to encroachment.
Since that time, Buckley AFB and The Trust for Public Land have worked together to design a buffer zone around the base, creating a protected corridor for parks, trails and wildlife habitats, known as the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program.
The Trust for Public Land hosted an event March 9, 2016, to celebrate and recognize the partnership between the base and the community and the first land buffer acquisition under the REPI program.
"This really is an amazing day because, as you all know, Buckley AFB is immensely critical to national security," said Col. John Wagner, 460th Space Wing commander. "We want to make sure it's a very busy runway decades into the future, with new types of airframes and the expansion of our missions."
While at the event, key speakers emphasized that this is the first of a series of land conversation efforts designed to establish and easement, allowing the city of Aurora, Colorado, to flourish while protecting mission success and supporting new and existing regional planning objectives.
The REPI program, a Department of Defense platform, protects military missions around the globe as a key tool for softening the zone between military bases and surrounding communities.
While the REPI program's primary mission is to protect military readiness, the program also benefits the environment by conserving land near installations and military ranges, protecting working lands, water resources, wildlife habitats and natural spaces for recreational activities.
"This is just the beginning of a long-range plan for recreational opportunities along Triple Creek for residents of Aurora and the county," said Bill Holen, Arapahoe County commissioner. "The vision of the open space program is healthy lands, healthy community and healthy people."
With the buffer between the base and the city of Aurora, the installation will be able to continue with military operations and readiness without disturbing much of the surrounding community.
"The aerospace control alert mission performed by the Colorado Air National Guard's F-16 Falcons is vital to the safety of the central United States," said Col. Floyd Dunstan, 140th Wing commander, in the Colorado Air National Guard. "To that end, the REPI program seeks to protect homeland defense and national security missions of Buckley AFB by working with community partners to establish compatible use buffer zones immediately adjacent to the base. Creating a buffer zone around the base will minimize noise impacts in surrounding areas, improve safety, and for the first time, Buckley AFB will have a full southern clear zone just beyond the runway, which is essential for the adoption of future aircraft."
This acquisition is the first of many projects. With Buckley AFB being an asset to the surrounding community, Aurora has been investing over the past few decades to purchase over 1,000 acres, amounting to approximately $24 million, to protect the future of the installation. With support from Governor John Hickenlooper, the state of Colorado contributed the first $5 million towards the project to get it off the ground.
"The nation's military readiness depends on ensuring that installations and ranges provide effective weapon systems testing and realistic training. Without the necessary space, Airmen, Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen will be inadequately prepared for their combat missions," said Wagner. "Because of the partnership and the fact that we're buying land, we've turned this 10-year effort into a reality. As we take these actions in 2016, it sets us up well for continued advancement towards 2036."