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 News.bytesNews.bytes Extra, issue 455 

Centerville transitioning to new recreation spot 

Once an important listening post for the U. S. Navy's undersea surveillance program, the coastal bluffs and beaches at Centerville on California's north coast are now poised to become a spectacular recreation destination.

In a ceremony held Thursday, Nov. 4, the Bureau of Land Management officially accepted transfer of the former Navy property into BLM management.  The event culminated a decade of planning that began after the Navy decommissioned the facility in 1993.

BLM Acting State Director Jim Abbott and other speakers credited Congressman Mike Thompson for his work championing the transfer and for winning more than $9 million in federal funding to enable the Navy to remove more than two dozen buildings, returning the site to its natural condition.  Other speakers, including Congressman Thompson and Humboldt County Supervisor Jimmy Smith, commended the Navy for its community spirit and outstanding work in restoring the site. Speakers agreed that partnerships involving the Navy, BLM and local community were instrumental in the cleanup and transfer of the property.

 two men shake hands over a plaque
Congressman Mike Thompson, left, receives an appreciation award from BLM Acting State Director Jim Abbott.

Man in Navy uniform at podium
Navy Cmdr. Marc Eckardt, commanding officer for the Naval Ocean Processing Facility, Whidbey Island, addresses the crowd.  Cmdr. Eckardt discussed the national security role played by the Centerville Naval Facility and praised the partnership of the local community during the facility's operational period and during the transfer process.

Several speakers noted the extensive work that went into the restoration of the former Navy base.  After blasting away and removing hazardous material including asbestos and lead-based paint, crews demolished the buildings and ground up the concrete blocks.  The resulting aggregate was used to fill foundation holes on the site, and was provided to the road departments in Humboldt County and the city of Ferndale.

These "before" and "after" photos show the results of the effort (text continues below):

Unused buildings overlooking the Pacific Ocean
Several squat buildings overlook the Pacific Ocean below the bluffs

The same site after restoration
grass and trees along a dirt road, with the ocean in the background

Buildings occupy a coastal meadow on the unused Navy facility
low buildings range across a field

The same site today
a grassy field surrounded by trees

The Centerville site has long been important locally and nationally.

For the Native Americans who first inhabited the coastal prairies and beach areas, it provided natural resources needed for survival and spiritual needs.   Settlers used the area for agriculture.

The Navy established the Centerville Beach Naval Facility in 1958 as part of a the Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) that kept tabs on Soviet submarines during the Cold War.  At its peak of operation it housed nearly 300 personnel and contained operational and support facilities including barracks, a gym and other structures.  The Navy decommissioned the facility  in 1993 and declared it surplus property.

The 35-acre site will now take on new importance as a spectacular coastal recreation site.  The BLM Arcata Field Office will soon involve the public in developing a management plan to guide uses.

Transfer of the facility is part of a larger grassroots effort called the “Lost Coast Headlands Project.  Initiated in April 2000, it aimed to bring four parcels totaling about 650 acres into public ownership and BLM management.   The California Coastal Conservancy, California Wildlife Conservation Board and The Conservation Fund have been instrumental in the project, which has provided more public access to the coastal bluffs, streams and beaches.

- Jeff Fontana, BLM Northern California District, 11/3/10

BLM California News.bytes, issue 455

Last updated: 11-03-2010