Planning underway to turn former Concord Naval Weapons Station into park

CONCORD, Calif. (KTVU) - It was once an integral part of the Bay Area's military operations.

Now, planning is underway to turn about 2,500 acres of the former Concord Naval Weapons Station into a regional park.

During a public meeting Thursday night at the Concord Senior Center, representatives from the East Bay Regional Park District told residents planning was in the beginning stages, and that public input was needed.

Dozens of residents were in attendance. Many said they wanted to see hiking and biking trails. Others expressed a desire to preserve as much of the natural beauty as possible.

"I want to see trails where I can walk my dog and lots of beautiful landscapes," said Monica Meneses, of Martinez.

"With Bike Concord, we're interested in connecting all the existing trails through the Concord Naval Weapons Station," said a man who identified himself only as "Smitty."

"I live right on the border of the park. You have to worry about if there's encampments. It's a big piece of land," said Chris McCormick, of Concord. "Is there going to be a homeless encampment that opens?"

According to the park district officials, the Navy is in the process of turning over the land to the East Bay Regional Park District.

They said there would be a lot of open space, trails connecting the park to other parks and open spaces, as well as a visitor’s center, memorializing the 1944 Port Chicago disaster and its aftermath.

"Three hundred and twenty sailors died. Almost all of them were African-American. It was obviously a horrible tragedy," said Carolyn Jones, spokeswoman for the East Bay Regional Park District. "It was also beginning of desegregation of the military, as well as a major milestone in the early civil rights movement."

Planners said in addition to hiking trails, parking lots and restrooms - campgrounds and multi-use trails will also be considered.

They said the hope is planning will be complete by next year, and the park will be ready for use in a few years.