Camp Pendleton State Military Reservation
Virginia Beach, VA
The State Military Reservation, which is also called Camp Pendleton, is a State-owned military installation in the City of Virginia Beach. The State has traditionally allocated the property primarily for the use of the Virginia National Guard, with exceptions during World War I and World War II, when it was leased to the federal armed services. Camp Pendleton was originally created in 1912 in a relatively remote, sparsely populated area. Since then, the City of Virginia Beach has grown and developed around the facility. The encroachment of development - public, residential, and commercial - has led to repeated requests by the City of Virginia Beach to convert Camp Pendleton to other uses, including conversion to a State park.
The State Military Reservation consists of 325 acres, on which over one hundred buildings are situated. The operation and maintenance of the installation is funded primarily by the federal government through the National Guard Bureau. The primary purpose of the State Military Reservation now is the on-site training of personnel and organizations of the Virginia National Guard. National Guard units from other states also train at the site, as do components of the U.S. Armed Forces. State and local civilian agencies sometimes conduct training at the site when facilities are not otherwise in use by military organizations. Facilities currently include the small arms range, the helicopter landing strip, classrooms, barracks, dining halls, maintenance garages, training fields, and the chapel.
Other uses involve tenants on the facility. The State and the federal government have entered into some commitments regarding specific parcels that are on or adjacent to Camp Pendleton property. The State leases to the federal government two properties: the 203rd RED HORSE Air National Guard Armory; and the Military Sealift Command buildings. Further, the State has a use agreement with the federal government regarding the Virginia Beach Army National Guard Armory. In addition to property it leases out, the National Guard licenses from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a connecting piece of land between the main base and the rifle range on the beachfront.
For a variety of reasons, the usage of Camp Pendleton is changing. Although the Virginia National Guard still benefits from using Camp Pendleton, its dependence on the facility is declining, as National Guard training shifts to the much larger Fort Pickett. Consequently, the site is essentially being brokered into a multi-service training facility with a federal orientation. As a result, the focus of Camp Pendleton as the State's primary military reservation is lessening.
The current goal of the National Guard is to make Camp Pendleton a financially self-supporting facility, principally through leases and use agreements with long- and short-term facility users. The General Assembly may wish to assess whether such a strategy is in the best interests of the Commonwealth. The General Assembly may also wish to consider alternative uses for Camp Pendleton, before long-term encumbrances to the property eliminate the feasibility of such uses in the future.
A safety issue regarding the firing range at Camp Pendleton also needs to be addressed. When Camp Pendleton was originally founded in 1912 as the State Rifle Range, it was located in a then-remote area of the State. Since that time, population growth and residential encroachment have created safety issues which will be difficult and expensive to address.
It is not currently feasible to convert Camp Pendleton, in its entirety, to a State park. It may be possible to convert portions of the camp to public park uses, but even a partial conversion of the property would require long-term planning, agreements with the federal government, environmental remediation of various sites, and costs that cannot be accurately estimated at this time.
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