History of the Concord Naval Weapons Station

a picture of the Port Chicago area in 1943 showing tidal and inland area aerial views

New piers and loading facilities added in 1943

In 1857, the first ammunition magazine was completed at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo. In 1942, at the beginning of World War II, the Navy built an annex to the Mare Island magazine, located near Concord.

This annex was named U.S. Naval Magazine, Port Chicago, after the nearby town. The depot was rapidly built up to support the heavy explosives demands of the war in the Pacific.

In July 1944, it was the scene of a massive ammunition detonation. The blast destroyed both the original pier and two munitions ships docked there, the S.S. E.A. Bryan and S.S. Quinault Victory. In the largest stateside disaster of the war, 320 people were killed. More than 200 of those killed were African-American sailors.

Today, a memorial stands on the site of this tragic event.

Ammunition was still needed for the war effort and Port Chicago was rapidly returned to service. By April of 1945, three additional large piers and a number of ordnance storage magazines had been constructed.

Port Chicago Pier after t

Port Chicago Pier after 1944 explosion

In 1957, the depot was renamed the U.S. Naval Ammunition Depot, Concord . With the advent of modern-day weaponry, the station's mission changed and expanded. The base was redesignated Naval Weapons Station, Concord in 1963. Due to changes in military operations, the inland area of the base was mothballed in 1999.

In late 1999, Congressman George Miller facilitated a study of potential joint uses for the mothballed inland portion of the CNWS. Concord officials played a significant role in the study. A list of potential joint uses that primarily focused on recreation and open space was submitted to the Navy in 2000. The Navy favorably considered the proposals. However, before significant progress could be made, the Navy revised its security operations following the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Nearly all joint-use proposals became unworkable under the revised security plan, with the exception of a 154-acre portion of the CNWS bordering Willow Pass Road and Olivera Road. The joint-use process identified this area as a potential park site based on a proposal from Concord officials.

Railroad crossing in the Concord Naval Weapons Station

A railroad crossing in the inland area

In October 2002, the City and the Navy initiated discussions on the City's acquisition of the property for development of a park through a lease agreement. A conceptual agreement was reached by the end of the year and the City began a master plan process. Residents of nearby neighborhoods, youth sports organizations, open space advocates and other citizens participated in several meetings. A draft master plan was developed for the Navy's review. The Navy asked the City to revise the master plan and removed approximately 40 acres from the original 154-acre area. The City submitted a revised draft master plan for the Navy's review. The project was shelved when it was announced that the Department of Defense planned to close a number of bases across the nation.

In November 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission announced that the Inland Area of the base was approved for closure. The Tidal Area would remain in operation as a port under the command of the Army. The BRAC legislation stipulated that the Navy would retain property ownership of the Inland Area, but would have to make some provision for the Army to acquire a portion of the Inland Area to support its port operations in the Tidal Area.

In 2006, the Department of Defense designated the Concord City Council to serve as the Local Reuse Authority (LRA). The LRA is the one point of contact negotiating with the Department of Defense and the single community point of contact for all matters relating to the closure of the Naval Weapons Station. The LRA has launched a three-phase, multi-year process to develop the Reuse Plan for the base property.

 

 
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