Fort Ord

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Fort Ord
Monterey Bay area, California
Fort ord.gif
Coordinates Coordinates: 36°38′21″N 121°44′07″W / 36.639167°N 121.735278°W / 36.639167; -121.735278
Type Army Post
Site information
Site history
Built 1917 (1917)
In use 1917 - 1994

Fort Ord is a former United States Army post on Monterey Bay of the Pacific Ocean coast in California, which closed in 1994. Most of the fort's land now makes up the Fort Ord National Monument, managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as part of the National Landscape Conservation System. The fort was established in 1917 for World War I as a maneuver area and field artillery target range, and was considered 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 was its main garrison 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 Smith's blue butterfly. Additional endangered species are found on Fort Ord including; Contra Costa goldfields and the threatened California Tiger Salamander.

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

On April 20, 2012, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation designating a 14,651-acre (5,929 ha) portion of the former post as the Fort Ord National Monument.[1][2] In his proclamation, the President stated that, "The protection of the Fort Ord area will maintain its historical and cultural significance, attract tourists and recreationalists from near and far, and enhance its unique natural resources, for the enjoyment of all Americans."

History[edit]

Fortordsign.jpg

In 1917, with the entrance of the nation into the 2-1/2 year old conflict of World War I with the declaration of war address to the United States Congress by the 28th President Woodrow Wilson against the Central Powers of the German Empire, Austria-Hungary and later the Ottoman Empire (Turkey)in April 1917. Land was later purchased just north of the city of Monterey along the western shoreline of the Pacific Ocean by Monterey Bay for use as an artillery training field for the United States Army by the U.S. Department of War. The area was known as the Gigling Reservation, U.S. Field Artillery Area, Presidio of Monterey and Gigling Field Artillery Range. Although military development and construction was just beginning, the War only lasted for another year and a half until the Armistice in November 11, 1918.

Despite a great demobilization of the U.S. Armed Forces during the inter-war years of the 1920's and 30's, by 1933, the artillery field became Camp Ord, named in honor of Union Army Maj. Gen. Edward Otho Cresap Ord, (1818-1883) a famous and well respected Federal military leader during the American Civil War who also served in the Second Seminole War in Florida and the western Indian Wars. Primarily, horse cavalry units trained on the camp until the military began to mechanize and train mobile combat units (such as tanks, armored personnel carrier and movable artilllery.

By 1940, the 23-year-old Camp Ord was expanded to 2,000 acres (8.1 km2; 3.1 sq mi), with a realization that the two-year old conflict of World War II could soon cross the Atlantic Ocean to involve America. 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 1941, Camp Ord became Fort Ord. But soon the first threat came from the west as the Japanese Imperial Navy struck at U.S. naval and military bases on the islands of Hawaii at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu and in the Philippines in a sneak air attack, Sunday, December 7th, 1941. In a few days the other Axis Powers of dictators Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany, along with Fascist Italy of Benito Mussolini, declared and spread their war in Europe against Great Britain and France and the low countries to the U.S. For the next thirty years, the fort was the primary facility for basic training for the once again rapidly and vastly expanding American Army.

With the end of the War with the surrenders of Germany in May and Japan in September 1945, the soon onset of a "Cold War" against our former ally, the Soviet Union, (Russia) continued for the next forty some years to the early 1990's. In 1947, Fort Ord became the home of the 4th Replacement Training Center. During the 1950s and 1960s, Fort Ord was a staging area for units departing for war in the Korean War and later peace-time/occupation/ duty in Japan, South Korea and the Philippines and Thailand, who became our allies. Then Southeast Asia became a war zone with Vietnam, and later involving by the 1970's Cambodia, Laos, and at one time, the U.S.A. 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 Kentucky in 1960.

In 1957, land on the eastern side of the post was used to create the Laguna Seca Raceway which served to replace the Pebble Beach road racing course that ceased operations for safety reasons in that same year.

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 ("demilitarized zone").

In 1988, the "Base Realignment and Closure" ("BRAC") legislation considering the post-Cold War era was passed by the Congress, under 41st President George H. W. Bush.

In 1991, the decision to close Fort Ord was made.

In 1994, Fort Ord was officially closed. The Fort was the largest U.S. military base to be closed at the time.

Closing the Fort[edit]

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 of California (down the coast) 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 for furtherpublic use and became the home of the California State University at Monterey Bay. The remainder was given to University of California at 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 nearby city of Marina is developing a large part of land within its city limits, building over 1,000 new homes. A large commercial strip mall along Highway 1 at the former 12th Street Gate entrance to Fort Ord opened in late 2007, housing popular retail stores such as Target, R.E.I., Michaels, Old Navy, Kohl's, and Best Buy. A substantial amount of land on the former 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.[3]

A small portion of Ft. Ord remains still under U.S. Army control originally called the Presidio of Monterey Annex. It is now called the Ord Military Community (described below).

The military still has a presence at Fort Ord, in the form of several California Army National Guard units, facilities administered 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.

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

Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA)[edit]

The Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) is a large, multi-governmental body responsible for the redevelopment of the 28,000 acre former Fort Ord Military Installation, FORA is composed of elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels, as well as representatives from the United States Armed Forces and educational bodies such as California State University, Monterey Bay at the primary, secondary, and university levels.[4][5] Voting members are made up of representatives from the cities of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Del Rey Oaks, Marina, Sand City, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Salinas, and Seaside as well as 2 representatives from the County of Monterey (of which one representative, Supervisor Dave Potter is currently FORA's chair).[6] Ex officio members are composed of representatives from the Monterey Peninsula College, the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, California's 17th congressional district, California's 15th State Senate district, California's 27th State Assembly district, the United States Army, the Chancellor of the California State University, the President of the University of California, the Monterey County Water Resources Agency, and the Transportation Agency of Monterey County.[7]

Recent events[edit]

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 the California State University at Monterey Bay.

An annual "Secrets of Fort Ord" tour is given, beginning from the campus of CSU-MB. Locations are reached by bus, and the tour takes approximately two hours. Though much of the former 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 limit areas. Some places are only viewable from the outside, though, such as the former stockade (prison), recently used for paintball and airsoft competitions, now house a concrete works and other industry.

The Marina Equestrian Center by the stockade has a fascinating history,[8] having started as an equine veterinary hospital in 1941 to serve the 1400 horses of the 76th Field Artillery Regiment (United States). Community horse boarding and prime riding-trail access on U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property is still available, but is in danger of being eliminated by the City of Marina. This is the only remaining example of a major World War II-construction medical facility for warhorses. Twelve of the original twenty-one stables built to house the warhorses and mules in 1940 are about 200 yards away from the equestrian center, on Fourth Avenue/Gen Jim Moore Blvd. They are owned by CSU-MB and slated for demolition. The work and efforts with sacrifices made by these "military animals" was documented in the feature theatrical movie (and later musicale/play) "War Horse" from 2013.

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.

A view of some of Fort Ord's Public Lands.

Veterans Transition Center[edit]

The Veterans Transition Center (VTC) is also located on the site of the former Fort Ord. Since its inception it has served 4,155 single veterans and 351 veterans with families. The center is currently looking to expand by adding more housing units and a non-profit store (to be run by partner company, Vocational Rehabilitation Specialists Inc.) with the express purpose of employing as many veterans as possible.[9][10]

California State University, Monterey Bay[edit]

California State University at Monterey Bay opened on the Fort's former ground shortly after Fort Ord's closing as part of 42nd President Bill Clinton's "peace dividends" program. The University has currently enrolled more than 5,700 students. The Leon Panetta Institute (named for the former U.S. Representative ("congressman") and Defense Secretary) is located on its campus.

Schoonover, Frederick and Frederick II are housing developments located in the former Fort Ord created for students and families who are associated with CSUMB, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District and local school districts. All three parks are accessible off of Abrams Drive.

Fort Ord Dunes State Park and National Monument[edit]

US Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar unveils the Fort Ord National Monument sign.

At the end of the same street that the DOD Building sits is one of many entrances to the Fort Ord National Monument, 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, a small number of trails are fenced along their edges because of possible unexploded ordnance.

A coastal strip overlooking Monterey Bay became California's newest state park, Fort Ord Dunes State Park, in 2009.[11]

On January 13, 2012, United States Secretary of Interior, Ken Salazar visited Fort Ord and addressed a crowd of 200 supporters and announced that he was proposing to President Obama that Fort Ord be elevated to National Monument status. On April 20, 2012, 44th President Barack Obama signed a Presidential Proclamation establishing Fort Ord National Monument.[12]

Fort Ord National Monument refers to that land on the former Fort Ord that is administered by the Bureau of Land Management and is open to the general public. Prior to being made available to the public, the land underwent a comprehensive remediation process that involved an extensive munitions clean-up. Currently there are over 83 miles (134 km) of recreational trails available on Fort Ord. Those trails are used by representatives from the trail communities including those on foot, on bicycles and on horseback. All open trails are available to all non-motorized trail user groups.

Notable Fort Ordians[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Presidential Proclamation — Establishment of the Fort Ord National Monument". Retrieved April 29, 2012. 
  2. ^ "National Monument detail table as of April 2012". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved 2012-12-27. 
  3. ^ SeeMonterey: Bayonet and Black Horse
  4. ^ "FORA Mission Statement". Fort Ord Reuse Authority. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  5. ^ "FORA Board Members". Fort Ord Reuse Authority. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  6. ^ "Government Code Section 67660". State of California. Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  7. ^ "Government Code Section 67661". State of California. Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  8. ^ "The Fort Ord Equestrian Center". Retrieved June 21, 2010. 
  9. ^ Townsell, T. K. (2009). Monterey Area Veterans Transition Center offers assistance to all local vets. Retrieved 04-11-2011 from www.army.mil, the official homepage of the U.S. Army: http://www.army.mil/-news/2009/12/10/31701-monterey-area-veterans-transition-center-offers-assistance-to-all-local-vets/
  10. ^ HelpVTC. 2011. About VTC: http://www.helpvtc.org/About.html
  11. ^ Cooper, J. Fort Ord Dunes now a state park. San Francisco Chronicle January 24, 2010
  12. ^ "Fort Ord National Monument proclamation" April 21, 2012
  13. ^ Mythbusters, viewed April 9, 2010.

External links[edit]