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Fort Ord

Fort Ord was a U.S. Army post on Monterey Bay in California. It was established in 1917 as a maneuver area and field artillery target range and was closed in September 1994. Fort Ord was one of the most attractive locations of any U.S. Army post, because of its proximity to the beach and California weather. The 7th Infantry Division (Light) was its main resident for many years. When Fort Ord was converted to civilian use, space was set aside for the first nature reserve in the United States created for conservation of an insect, the endangered species Smith's blue butterfly.

After some 77 years of military training, the base was found to be highly and widely contaminated with toxics including lead from bullets at the beach rifle training ranges, unexploded ordnance (UXO) spread across more than 10,000 acres of impact ranges and unlined landfills leaking TCE and carbon tetrachloride into ground water under residential areas, some detected in drinking water wells. This contamination finding resulted in Fort Ord's placement on the National Priorities List, a subset of the most contaminated Superfund sites.

The subsequent cleanup was controversial soon after it started, drawing lawsuits from the Regional Air Quality protection agency and one of the three non-profits formed specifically to force the ARMY and US-EPA to adequately and responsibly clean up the toxics and explosives. The beach area, slated to become a California state park in 2009, still contains extensive lead dust which can harm children's health with lead poisoning because 96 percent of the area was not cleaned up. (Post-Remediation Health and Ecological Risk Assessments, 2007)

While much of the old military buildings and infrastructure remain abandoned, many structures have been torn down for anticipated development. California State University Monterey Bay, along with some subdivisions, a strip mall, military facilities and a nature preserve occupy the area today.

Contents

History

Fort Ord

In 1940 the 23-year-old Camp Ord, named in honor of Maj. Gen. Edward Ord, a Union Army leader during the American Civil War who also served in the Second Seminole War and Indian Wars, was expanded to 2,000 acres (8.1 km2; 3.1 sq mi). In August 1940, it was re-designated Fort Ord and the 7th Infantry Division was reactivated, becoming the first major unit to occupy the post.

In 1947 Fort Ord became the home of the 4th Replacement Training Center. During the 1950s and 1960's Fort Ord was a staging area for units departing for war, and at one time had 50,000 troops on the installation. The 194th Armored Brigade was activated there under Combat Development Command in 1957, but departed for Fort Knox in 1960. The post continued as a center for instruction of basic and advanced infantrymen until 1976, when the training area was deactivated and Fort Ord again became the home of the 7th Infantry Division, following their return from South Korea after twenty-five years on the DMZ. During the last few years, basic training for National Guard and Reservists was conducted by regular army personnel, but there was a shift at that time to focus on the mental and emotional, as well as the traditional physical aspects of basic training. This was done to prepare the Guard and Reservists to better handle the unique challenges of serving in the domestic "theatre," acknowledging the unique mental and emotional stresses inherent in a typical reservist deployments.

Closing the Fort

A bench within Fort Ord's Public Lands.

The BRAC Commission of 1991 recommended closing the post and moving the units stationed at Fort Ord to Fort Lewis, Washington. In 1992, Army elements from Fort Ord and Marines from Camp Pendleton participated in quelling the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. In 1994 Fort Ord was finally closed. Most of the land was returned to the state of California and became the home of the California State University, Monterey Bay. The remainder was given to UC Santa Cruz to be developed into the UC MBEST (Monterey Bay Education, Science and Technology) Center. The MBEST Center is a regional economic development effort focused on developing collaborative research-business opportunities in the Monterey Bay region.

The city of Marina is developing a large part of land within its city limits, building over 1,000 new homes. A large strip mall along Highway 1 at the former north entrance to Fort Ord recently opened, and houses popular retail stores such as Target and Best Buy. A substantial amount of land on the east side of the base has been set aside for preservation as open space. This preserve includes a network of hiking trails and other recreational amenities.

Fort Ord's former golf courses, Bayonet and Black Horse, are now public golf courses. They have hosted PGA golf events and were recently renovated.[1]

A small portion of Ft. Ord remains under Army control and is now called the Presidio of Monterey Annex. It includes the Ord Military Community (explained below), California National Guard posts, the DoD Center, and the gunnery ranges.

The military still has a presence at Fort Ord, in the form of several California Army National Guard units, facilities administrated by the Presidio of Monterey, and the continued operation of the base PX and Commissary catering to the active duty military stationed in the Monterey area as well as retirees who chose to settle in the area and are entitled to shop at such facilities. Management of the military housing has been outsourced to private firms, but the homes are still occupied by personnel stationed at the Presidio of Monterey and Naval Postgraduate School and retired military members. Ft. Ord's housing, PX, chapel, and Commissary are now called Ord Military Community.

Afterward

A snapshot taken during a "Secrets of Fort Ord" Tour, with real soldiers training in progress.

In June 2006, Ed Salven, one of Ft. Ord's veterans from the Vietnam era, published a book, The Soldier Factory, chronicling his personal history as a soldier, and reflecting upon a return visit to the Fort in the late '90s. Along with poetic reflections, the book includes color reproductions of paintings of soldiers that Salven found hung from barracks' windows as he explored the grounds, rendered by students from California State University, Monterey Bay.

An annual "Secrets of Fort Ord" tour is given, beginning from the campus of CSUMB. Locations are reached by bus, and the tour takes approximately two hours. Though much of the fort appears abandoned, tourists learn otherwise upon seeing the buildings in full use with soldiers in training within the broken down buildings. Much of the tour takes place beyond public reach, behind closed off limits. Some places are only viewable from the outside, though, such as the former prison, recently used for paintballing and airsoft and now housing a concrete works and other industry.

The old Fort Ord stables, which was built as a veterinary hospital in 1941 to serve the 1500 horses of the 176th field artillery, still offers low-cost horse boarding to the community and prime riding-trail access on BLM land, but it is in danger of being eliminated by the City of Marina.

Several other abandoned locations which may or may not have been included in the tour, and which may have even been knocked down as of 2007, include the Doughboy Theater, an Olympic sized swimming pool, a bowling alley, and an incinerator.

Fort Ord Public Lands

At the end of the same street that the DOD Building sits is one of many entrances to the Fort Ord Public Lands, which includes miles of trails, vegetation and wildlife. As their title states, the trails are open to the public for hiking, biking, and other forms of exercise. However, many trails are fenced along their edges because of possible unexploded ordnance.

36°38′21″N 121°44′07″W / 36.6391667°N 121.7352778°W / 36.6391667; -121.7352778[2]

See also

References

External links








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