USACE delivers new Outdoor Recreation Complex in Grafenwoehr

Published Oct. 8, 2013
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – Sunshine, blue skies and a splendid fall afternoon set up an idyllic backdrop for the grand opening of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s Outdoor Recreation Complex at Grafenwoehr Training Area.

Military and civilian leaders from FMWR, the Bavarian state ministry, Installation Management Command-Europe and the garrison gathered here Sept. 24 with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District officials to cut the ribbon on the new Wild B.O.A.R., which sits at Camp Heritage near Dickhaeuter Lake and stands for Bavaria Outdoor Adventure & Recreation. They hailed the $11.6 million facility as a showcase spot unlike any of its kind in Europe, as well as a significant feat in sustainability and engineering expertise.

“We are very excited about opening this Outdoor Recreation Complex,” said Col. James Saenz, the U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria commander. “It’ll be a great place for our Soldiers, families and civilians to come and relax and enjoy a good weekend. … This is really a phenomenal complex that we’re not going to keep to ourselves. We’re going to share it with the rest of Europe.”

The complex consolidates Outdoor Recreation amenities and attractions in one location for the Bavaria Military Community. Equipment and services had been spread across Vilseck and U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr, which was reflagged as USAG Bavaria earlier in the day. FMWR plans to close the ODR center at Rose Barracks.

Having assets scattered around the Bavaria Military Community wasn’t necessarily the most efficient way of doing business, said Wolfgang Schultes, USAG Bavaria’s Outdoor Recreation director. The Wild B.O.A.R. brings an opportunity to streamline resources more effectively in this era of budget and fiscal uncertainty.

“We were lacking adequate recreation facilities for the growing population of the Grafenwoehr footprint,” he said. “The quality of the existing ones was poor, and they needed major upgrade and expansion. … To bring all these features to this location was the logical course of action.”

Outdoors, the high-ropes team adventure course – which opened in 2012 – stretches more than 1,000 feet and has been used extensively as part of Warrior Adventure Quest, a program aimed at helping Soldiers returning from downrange.

“We saw a need for on-site activities that would offer adrenaline programs to the Soldiers, instead of taking them to places off post and spending a lot of valuable time and money on travel and renting facilities,” Schultes said. “The idea came up … to make it a destination for recreation, as well as adventure and resiliency programs.”

Among numerous other highlights, the family park also has campsites, picnic areas, a paintball field, shower and laundry facility, and boat dock. Six lodges are available and come with kitchens, patios, living rooms and Wi-Fi capabilities. They sleep between five and seven guests.

The main center consists of a snack bar, patio and reception area, where visitors can rent gear, register for outdoor or weekend trips, and sign up for professional instruction. A multipurpose room can be reserved for receptions, parties, conferences and other functions.

A playground and sand volleyball can be found a few steps away outside. They’re adjacent to a full-size basketball court, which will get converted to a hockey and ice skating rink every winter.

A separate indoor rock-climbing hall offers multiple levels of difficulty to test any skill set.

“We didn’t have all these features here before,” Schultes said. “It was just a plain picnic site with a pavilion, and that was basically it. … We’ll also feature a sit-down restaurant once we have a concessionaire in place.”

FMWR officials hope to open that by year’s end, he added. A potential second phase on the project could bring a golf driving range and upgrade of recreational shooting ranges to the complex, but funding hasn’t been allocated.

Officials said conception and planning for the Wild B.O.A.R. go back at least a decade. Construction began in May 2011.

“This premier destination will be a wonderful place for our Soldiers and their families to train, play and relax,” said Col. Peter Helmlinger, the Europe District commander. “This outdoor recreation and adventure center also incorporates many sustainable design and energy-saving features aimed at increasing the facility’s life span and preserving our environmental resources for future generations.”

They include an innovative wood-pellet boiler system for heat and hot-water generation that burns byproduct waste from the timber industry. During construction, recycled rubber was used for the playground – while trees cleared from the area went toward seating around it. Europe District, the German bauamt and its general contractor, Mickan GmBH, also capitalized on recycled aluminum throughout the complex.

Helmlinger said demolition waste generated during construction – asphalt, shrubbery, rootstocks and other items – was salvaged or reprocessed as well.

“Finally, to keep this project ‘green’ and compensate for areas where trees were cut, or the natural habitat disturbed, we enhanced or created new habitats for animals around post,” he said.

Schultes said the new Outdoor Recreation Complex will significantly improve quality of life for the Bavaria Military Community.

“To give American Soldiers and families a piece of stateside ambience when it comes to spending weekends outdoors enjoying activities like fishing, climbing, camping out and so forth, it enhances their possibilities and options,” he said.

Teamwork was crucial in completing a project of this magnitude, he added.

“I’ve never been involved in a project like this before,” he said. “I was amazed by how much effort and how many experts were involved in this process. There were a lot of planners, designers, engineers and technical experts from different departments. … They worked together in getting all these features worked out, developed and defined.

“I had the luxury to be part of it as an observer, and as the end user, I had some input, which I think is very important. … It was amazing how all those components – the [Directorate of Public Works], the garrison, Corps of Engineers and the German authorities – came together to make this project what it is now.”

Europe District officials agreed.

“We are all proud members of the larger team helping to modernize the Grafenwoehr community and delivering world-class facilities to the tremendous Soldiers, civilians and families who live here,” Helmlinger said.

Building the Outdoor Recreation Complex took tremendous coordination with Europe District’s DPW counterparts and several other agencies, said Danielle Brooks, the Grafenwoehr Resident Office project engineer. She praised the work of Manfred Koenig and Stefan Brunner, the project’s civil and mechanical engineers, respectively.

“This has been the most exciting, and sometimes taxing, construction project I’ve had the pleasure of leading since joining Europe District,” said Brooks, who’s set to leave the organization later this fall. “I couldn't think of a better way to wrap up my assignment with EUD than to turn over such a great facility to the USAG Bavaria community. This was indeed a labor of love for me.”

Planners also didn’t have a standard design or blueprint for such a challenging and complex venture, Schultes said.

“This was all built and designed from scratch, based on visions and ideas and concepts that were brought together over time,” he said. “This facility is unique. I know for sure, in Europe, nobody has a facility like this.”