Fort Ord has been a fixture near Monterey since WW II. It was closed as an Army base in the early rounds of base closures, but a vestigial remnant persists and much of the former base’s land has found other government service. In 2012 President Obama named a large tract of Fort Ord as a national monument. A similar sized parcel is still government-owned, but is held incommunicado due to the danger of unexploded ordnance there, from decades of live-fire training.
Chris, Anne and I visited the national monument portion of Ord and did a small hike. After all of the rain that we have received, the place was verdant. For wildlife, we saw a Western bluebird and Western meadowlark. Our hike pretty much comprised a 1,000′ climb, catching our breath, enjoying the view and then turning around and heading back down again. We did go a wee bit further, when over the hill, we spied a flock of goats.
I was surprised to see them, because, after all, this land is part of the National Parks System, with no ties to the Department of Agriculture. Normally, NPS parks and monuments view their custodial charges as sacred trusts and try to maintain them as pristine as possible. It was only afterwards that I had an idea of why they might be there. The monuments signage advised patrons to stick to the roads and trails. What if this part of the old base was only mostly safe? After sixty years of military use, through six wars, who’s to say where all the bombs are buried. What if the goats are not just doing organic vegetation management, but are also searching for UXOs?
The brochure warns visitors about discarded military munitions. It also cautions them to stay on roads and trails. It was a beautiful day and the parking lot was full. We saw many other visitors, but always on the roads and trails. I also wonder about ulterior motives regarding the leash free policy for dogs. Still, it was pretty countryside.
Goats are curious animals and will try to eat almost anything. In the picture below, you can see the outline of the portable goat pen in the dilapidated grass. After grazing all day, the goats are being shepherd into their pen for the night. I hope that they get a good night’s sleep, because tomorrow means another day in the hurt locker for them.