Last weekend I got to go check out a pretty cool place: Fort Ord National Monument in Monterey, California. It used to be an Army post from 1940-1994. Before that it was used as an artillery range. A big portion of it was declared by President Obama in 2012 as a national monument. It is still undergoing munitions clean-up; there are still many areas closed to the public because of unexploded ordnance. Now it is slowly being returned to it’s natural ecosystem: a chaparral community. The national monument is roughly the same size as the city of San Francisco but instead of being 80% concrete, it is 80% natural vegetation. There are relaxing vernal pools, beautiful coast live oak stands, and grasslands that frame the backdrop.
A chaparral ecosystem has a Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and cool wet winters. It is found in many parts of California and consists of dense, dry shrubland with coyote bush and sage brush being very common. It is home to numerous plant and animal species, and Fort Ord in particular is home to some threatened and endangered species including the Monterey Spineflower which is endemic to this area.
There’s a ton of trails that a great for biking, hiking, running, and even horseback riding. No motorized vehicles are allowed so even though it’s right on the coast and just a few miles away from the city of Monterey, it can seem very wild and remote. It’s an excellent place to spot wildlife and boasts at least 200 different species of bird including a nesting colony of Tricolored Blackbirds, which are on the decline due to lack of habitat.