By Gary SheftickApril 24, 2012
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 24, 2012) -- President Barack Obama signed a proclamation April 20 designating Fort Ord, Calif., as a national monument under the Department of the Interior.
Nearly 100,000 tourists already visit the sweeping landscape and Monterey Bay sand dunes located on the former Army installation. Fort Ord closed Sept. 30, 1994, under the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act, or BRAC, of 1990.
An estimated 1.5 million troops had trained there since 1917 when it was a field artillery site for World War I Soldiers stationed at the nearby Presidio of Monterey. Horse cavalry trained on the site during the interwar period and in 1933 it was named Camp Ord in honor of Maj. Gen. Edward Ord, a leader in the Union Army during the Civil War and the Indian Wars.
In 1941, Fort Ord became an Army basic training installation where many World War II Soldiers received their first taste of Army life. During the Korean War and Vietnam Conflict, it served as a leading training center and staging area for troops about to deploy across the Pacific for combat.
In 1973, Fort Ord became the home of the 7th Infantry Division following its return from South Korea after 25 years of service on the demilitarized zone, known as the DMZ.
Fort Ord was the largest U.S. military installation to close under BRAC legislation in the mid 1990s.
"Thousands of veterans carry the memory of its dramatic landscape as their first taste of Army life, as a final stop before deploying to war, or as a home base during their military career," Obama stated in the proclamation designating Fort Ord as a national monument.
U.S. national monuments include the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, Fort Sumter and dozens of other historic landmarks.
Fort Ord was designated a national monument not only for its historic value, but because it is a rare natural area in the increasingly urban environment of Monterey Bay, officials said.
"By bicycle, horse, and foot visitors can explore the Fort Ord area's scenic and natural resources along trails that wind over lush grasslands, between gnarled oaks, and through scrub-lined canyons," the presidential proclamation states. "Within the boundaries of the Fort Ord area, visitors admire the landscape and scenery and are exposed to wildlife and a diverse group of rare and endemic plants and animals."
"This national monument will not only protect one of the crown jewels of California's coast, but will also honor the heroism and dedication of men and women who served our nation and fought in the major conflicts of the 20th century," said Obama.
The area is also notable for its role in the Spanish settlement of California. Six miles of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail pass through the Fort Ord National Monument. This trail was forged in 1775 as a migration route from Mexico.
Scientists are also drawn to the Fort Ord area, seeking opportunities to better understand once-widespread species and plant communities, and their ongoing restoration, according to the presidential proclamation. It states that the Fort Ord area is rich in biodiversity and has important central coast habitats, "supporting a diverse group of rare and endemic species of plants and animals. It is one of the few remaining places in the world where large expanses of coastal scrub and live oak woodland and savanna habitat, mixed with rare vernal pools, exist in a contiguous, interconnected landscape."
The presidential proclamation protects 14,651 acres of the Fort Ord area for recreation, research and tourism.
Also in the area is Fort Ord Dunes State Park, California State University Monterey Bay, a Veterans Transition Center, a strip mall, a subdivision, some reserve-component training facilities and a nature preserve.
Of the 14,651 acres of federal lands, about half will be managed by the Bureau of Land Management, part of the Department of the Interior. The other 7,446 acres will continue to be managed by the Department of the Army until the cleanup of any ordnance and other items is complete.
Obama designated Fort Ord as a national monument under authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906. It was first used that year by President Theodore Roosevelt to designate Devil's Tower in Wyoming as the first national monument. Since then, the act has been used by 14 presidents to protect natural and historic lands such as the Grand Canyon and Ellis Island.
This was the second time Obama has used his authority under the Antiquities Act. He designated Fort Monroe, Va., as a national monument in November.