SEASIDE — For 77 years, Fort Ord near Monterey was a sprawling Army base thick with artillery pieces, wooden barracks and infantrymen shooting rifles and machine guns during target practice.
More than 2 million men and women served there between 1917 and 1994, including soldiers who battled in World War I, stormed the beaches in Okinawa during World War II, and fought in Korea, Vietnam and Panama. When they were young and largely unknown, Fort Ord’s soldiers included Clint Eastwood, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, rock star Jerry Garcia, and actors Leonard Nimoy and Jamie Farr.
But this year, the oceanfront portion of the former base — four miles of majestic sand dunes hugging Monterey Bay — will begin a new transformation, with construction of a major new state park campground.
The $22 million project, which is scheduled to go out for construction bids this spring, is the first new state park campground of its size built anywhere on the California coast in more than 30 years.
Plans call for 110 campsites — half for RVs and half for tents — on the southern edge of the property, with four restroom buildings, a campfire center, community gathering building, beach access trail, overlooks of Monterey Bay and interpretive exhibits featuring wildlife and military history. State parks officials say they hope to begin construction this fall, and open it in 2022.
Funded with state parks bond money, the new facility will be the only state parks campground for more than 60 miles on the coast between southern Santa Cruz County and Big Sur. Years in the making, the project is part of an ongoing state effort to expand low-cost overnight accommodations on a coast where $300-a-night-and-up hotels are pricing out many working class families from beach vacations.
“People love these wide open spaces,” said Brent Marshall, superintendent of state parks’ Monterey District, while hiking through the site this week. “The sand dunes are so dynamic. There is a long stretch of beach. You can get out on it and walk for hours.”
California Department of Parks and Recreation Monterey District Superintendent Brent Marshall talks about the new campgrounds being planned at Fort Ord Dunes State Park, in Marina California, on Tuesday, February 11, 2020. (LiPo Ching for Bay Area News Group)
Fort Ord Dunes State Park has been open for a decade, for free, on the west side of Highway 1, near Seaside and Marina. The windswept park has minimal facilities, but is a favored spot for bike riders, beachcombers and surfers, drawing about 100,000 people a year.
“There are pelicans and sea otters out here,” said Marshall. “And whales. I’ve seen as many as six spouts.”
Fort Ord was named for Civil War officer Edward Ord, colorful character who sailed to Monterey around Cape Horn in 1847 with William Tecumseh Sherman, helped survey the city of Los Angeles, was instrumental in the surrender of Robert E. Lee, and hunted buffalo across the Plains before dying of yellow fever in Cuba in 1883.
The base’s 28,000 acres that bear …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle