A forest in our own backyard

By Tessa Munson
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Fort Ord National Monument map which illuminates the access areas. Graphic gathered from fortordcleanup.com.

Have you ever gone exploring in the Fort Ord National Monument? You may be surprised to learn that there are extensive hiking, biking and running trails right in California State University, Monterey Bay’s (CSUMB) own backyard, many of which are even dog friendly! Your four-legged friends are welcome to join you on leash, on all open Fort Ord trails.

The golden rule while exploring Fort Ord is to mind the signs. Munitions cleanup efforts in Fort Ord do tend to change and evolve, so it is wise to keep up to date when visiting the area. A good way to check the trails is by viewing the Army’s website at fortordcleanup.com/programs/blm-area-b or call 1-800-852-9699 to find out if there are any road or trail closures in relation to cleanup work.

Another equally important rule to follow while visiting Fort Ord in relation to munitions is to remember the 3 R’s: Recognize, Retreat, Report. The Army does a great job cleaning up the leftover munitions from the Fort Ord National Monument. However, it is near impossible to locate every single item left behind by the historical military activity, while still preserving much of the natural beauty that the incredible Fort Ord forest has to offer. This is not to say that the Army is able to save all vegetation, as they do have to limb up some of the larger trees in order to make way for surface removal. Also, chaparral is cleared through prescribed burns when possible, which is vital for the vegetation’s longevity.

What is prescribed burning and what is it used for? Prescribed burns are the most timely and efficient method that the Army uses for munitions cleanup. Prescribed burns are described as controlled areas designated to burn, in order to significantly reduce the vast majority of munitions leftover from historical military activity on the former base. The burns are designed to clear the chaparral vegetation to make way for cleanup crews to extract the munitions. These strictly controlled burns are consistent with both the Ford Ord Habitat Management Plan and the Biological Opinion issued through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The burns are closely monitored and planned using specific meteorological conditions.

The munitions cleanups should not hinder visitors to the Fort Ord area in the slightest. As long as visitors comply with the posted restrictions within the preserve, they will be safe from hazards posed by munitions.

On Oct. 27, the Fort Ord National Monument will be hosting National Public Lands Day from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. This event is designed to allow the public to be involved in the cleanup and restoration activities around Fort Ord. In order to join the event, just follow the BLM Special Event signs in the National Monument. Come prepared with gardening clothes and sturdy footwear. Refreshments, gloves and supplies will be provided for volunteers. For more information regarding the event, please visit fortordcleanup.com/event/october-20-2018-national-public-lands-day-at-the-
fort-ord-national-monument.

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