SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Camp Roberts, the largest Army Guard training site in California, is located on 42,361 acres that span both Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties.
This training site, which has been active for the last 80 years, must remain fully functional and strong in its operations, while at the same time respecting the natural and cultural environment. Many historic and prehistoric cultural and archaeological sites are found at Camp Roberts. The installation has successfully instituted a comprehensive Cultural Resources Management program to maintain such sites.
Camp Roberts serves as the West Coast overseas deployment mobilization center. The site also serves as the training ground for the California Army National Guard (CAARNG), active Army units, and active and reserve units from other military branches.
The training capabilities on these grounds include armor and artillery, bivouacking, helicopter and airborne operations, land navigation, large caliber weapons, live fire exercise, mechanized infantry, and mounted and dismounted maneuvers. It is the only dedicated live impact area for all caliber direct and indirect weapons systems. It is a Combined Arms Collective Training Facility that offers simulations of urban warfare.
Starting in 2018, the Camp Roberts program made great strides in revitalizing its Cultural Resources Management (CRM) program. CAARNG has provided the CRM program with full staff and support. The CRM program prioritizes site protection and technology-enabled monitoring with the help of interagency cooperation. This revitalization began with the execution of a new Programmatic Agreement (PA) to streamline the management of cultural resources in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). The PA was executed in coordination with the California State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) and National Guard Bureau (NGB), and is focused on tailoring the CAARNG’s NHPA compliance processes in order to save time, reduce costs and obstacles, and better enable the CAARNG’s training mission.
The new PA enables Camp Roberts to submit its backlog of evaluation reports to the California SHPO, in order to formally determine resources’ legal status in regards to the listing criteria for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). This allowed for the resolution of the regulatory status of 56 archaeological sites and 294 buildings and structures in 2018–2019.
“Compiling and submitting the supporting documentation for these resource evaluations was a huge effort, but the resolution of their NRHP status was worth it,” said John Sharp, the CAARNG’s Cultural Resources Manager. “The majority of these resources were determined to be not historically significant, and the management of these buildings and a significant amount of acreage within the training lands can now become fairly automated and streamlined per the PA.”
This process has also allowed Camp Roberts staff to focus on protecting the few buildings that do have historical significance. The Soldier Bowl Amphitheater, which exhibits unique regional architecture and featured celebrity entertainment for troops during World War II, is one of the historic buildings on the installation that has benefited from the recent SHPO consultation, and is one of the few buildings on Camp Roberts to be found culturally significant. When wildfires blazed across California, CAARNG and CALFire were able to protect the Soldier Bowl from fire damage, preserving its historical legacy.
In 2018, a dedicated on-site cultural resources specialist with archaeological experience and extensive Geographic Information System (GIS) experience was hired. He was able to establish comprehensive Cultural Sensitivity Mapping in GIS, which included updating and correcting archaeological site boundaries, depicting the NRHP status (i.e., regulatory status) of all archaeological resources, and depicting sensitive areas requiring Native American consultation. This new program made way for integrating the CRM GIS layers with natural resources, training operations, historic land use, and proposed projects for more viable data in nine months.
About 35,000 acres of land in Camp Roberts have been surveyed for archaeological resources. To survey the final 5,000 acres—approximately 3,000 acres of “Impact Area” are exempt from the survey—funding has been programmed into the 2020 FY. The integrated, georeferenced map will establish detailed spatial boundaries to facilitate training movements and construction activity, and it will help to classify sites by regulatory status.
A Camp Roberts master digital database was also created to keep up-to-date information, summaries, and bibliographic data for all existing cultural resources reports. The CRM Program team also has an established working relationship with local Native American tribes—California has the most diverse Native American population in the U.S.—to consult and aid in the survey of Native American cultural sites, a vital piece of stakeholder collaboration.
“Our CRM efforts on Camp Roberts are primarily aimed at directly supporting the activities focused on the training and readiness of CAARNG soldiers. Our recent efforts related to both historical buildings and archaeological sites has had the ultimate effect of facilitating construction projects and opening up new acres for training or construction according to the installation’s needs,” said Sharp.
The CRM program ensures that CAARNG and its partners have a lasting pledge to preserve the integrity of significant cultural and historical resources at Camp Roberts, while simultaneously maintaining a tried and true commitment to mission readiness.