More than 2,200 acres of former Concord Naval Weapons Station land in eastern Concord is now in the hands of the East Bay Regional Park District, which plans to make this land the center of a new park. The park district board voted on July 2 to accept 2,216 acres of land from the U.S. Navy. The transfer of the park land was celebrated at a Saturday ceremony on the east side of the former Concord Naval Weapons Station land, an event at which the 75th anniversary of the Port Chicago explosion that killed 320 people – most of them African Americans – when highly explosive ammunition detonated at the north end of the naval weapons station.
Concord Hills Regional Park, which is envisioned to eventually comprise about 2,500 acres, is a major element of a redeveloped weapons station property. Another 2,300 acres will be transferred to the city of Concord, whose Concord Community Reuse Project has been overseeing planning for housing, businesses, a college campus and other development. This has been a years-long planning process, and buildout is expected to take many more years.
The inland portion — south of state Highway 4 — of the weapons station was closed in 2005. Most of the portion of the base north of Highway 4 became Military Ocean Terminal Concord, operated by the U.S. Army. This past week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the National Defense Authorization Act. Included in that act was an amendment by U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, which requests the U.S. Secretary of the Navy to publicly exonerate the “Port Chicago 50,” the group of African-American sailors who refused to go back to dock work after the July 7, 1944 dock explosion.