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Camp San Luis Obispo

Camp San Luis Obispo is "the original home of the California National Guard." Camp San Luis Obispo was established in 1928 as a California Army National Guard (CARNG) training camp. It originally totaled 5,800 acres and was known as Camp Merriam.

With the onset of World War II, San Luis Obispo County's transportation links and open land areas were deemed useful by the US War Department, which located training camps in the area: Camp Roberts and Camp San Luis Obispo, as well as a naval training base at Morro Bay and a Coast Guard station near Cambria. These camps brought into the County nearly 100,000 military personnel, some with their families. Many liked the area so much that they returned to settle here after the war. Even some movie people were stationed here. Van Heflin was at Camp San Luis and Red Skelton was stationed at Camp Roberts.

The US Government acquired approximately 9,159 more acres in the early 1940s and used Camp Roberts as an infantry division training center during WW II, and as a signal corps training center during the Korean Conflict. Camp San Luis Obispo (CSLO) was used by the U.S. Army from 1943-1946 as an infantry division training center during WW II, with 20,000 soldiers at peak training. Uses of the base included artillery, small arms, mortar, rocket, and grenade ranges. Construction at the base included the typical dwellings, garages, latrines, target houses, repair shops, and miscellaneous range structures.

The Camp was inactivated in 1946 and some properties were released back to the owners. In 1951, the Camp was reactivated with the establishment of the Signal Corps training center. Following the Korean Conflict, the U.S. Army maintained the camp in an inactive status. In 1965, the Camp was declared excess and turned over to the GSA.

In 1972 the land at El Chorro Regional Park was deeded to the County, during President Nixon's "Legacy of Parks" program, to be managed as a natural park and recreational area for the citizens and visitors of San Luis Obispo County. El Chorro Park was formerly a portion of Camp San Luis Obispo and served as a training area and for small arms ranges during World War II and the Korean War. Unexploded ordnance has been found in the portion of the park north of Range Road, and this area has been closed to the public to prevent any accidents from unexploded ordnance. No deaths have resulted from ordnance at El Chorro Park since it was opened in 1973.

Ukraine and United States military forces conducted a joint, bilateral peacekeeping exercise at Camp San Luis Obispo, California, 14 - 23 Nov 1997, to expand and enhance Ukrainian - US relations, enhance interoperability in a combined peace enforcement / peacekeeping role, integrate humanitarian assistance operations, and promote military-to-military cooperation between forces.

The National Interagency Counterdrug Institute at Camp San Luis Obispo, a federally funded field operating activity of the National Guard Bureau, provides training and research on interagency operations and programs that receive military support. The focus is on; multijurisdiction, multistate counterdrug operations; mobilizing processes for communities to reduce illegal substance abuse in their neighborhoods; and providing critical life-saving assistance after a natural or man-made disaster.

In response to difficulties in managing civil disorder, the State of California started training National Guard soldiers, together with law enforcement officers, in a course called the "California Civil Disorder Management Course" in September, 1971. Where initially over 60 percent of the people attending California Specialized Training Institute classes were from law enforcement, by 1985 less than 21 percent represented police agencies. Reflecting this shift of emphasis, CSTI was moved in 1985 from the National Guard to the Office of Emergency Services.

The National Guard Bureau, as part of the Guard's civil mission to defend against domestic threats, created a proactive youth intervention program for youth 16-18 years of age who have dropped out of school. The pilot program was established in 15 states in 1994 and has proven so successful that it was expanded into five additional states -- including California in Fiscal Year 1998. California's Youth Challenge Program is a rigorous 17 1/2 month military-based youth intervention program conducted by the California National Guard at the Grizzly Academy, Camp San Luis Obispo, California. The program is conducted in conjunction with the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education and operates with the California National Guard's philosophy foremost in mind: Young people who have not been in trouble with the law, but who have made the mistake of quitting school, deserve a second change to become contributing, productive members of society.

In May 2000 Congresswoman Lois Capps announced that she secured federal funds to design a dining facility and maintenance shop at Camp San Luis Obispo. Capps lobbied to include the funding in the Military Construction Appropriations bill, which passed the House Tuesday. In March, Capps requested the funding in a letter to the Ranking Member of the Military Construction Subcommittee. The Subcommittee's FY 2002 budget should include $720,000 to fund the project. This critical funding will help all National Guard units supported by Camp San Luis Obispo to respond to state emergencies, conduct training, and prepare for mobilization. It will also support numerous youth programs run out of Camp San Luis Obispo.

Santa Margarita Lake Regional Park is home to countless species of plants and wildlife, making it the perfect location for nature study, boating and fishing. Created by the construction of the Salinas Dam in 1941, the lake was originally designed to furnish water to Camp San Luis Obispo. Today it is a major source of drinking water for the City of San Luis Obispo. The park first opened for fishing and boating in 1957 and is still one of the best locations for fishing and relaxation found on California's Central Coast.

The majority of the site consists of mountains and canyons that are classified as grassland, wooded grassland, woodland, or brush. A majority of the site is grassland and used predominately for grazing. The area in the north-northeastern portion of the site is classified as woodland (National Forest). Areas of brush land occur throughout the site; this becomes a critical fire hazard during the hot and dry summer and fall months. Drainage is generally to the west mainly via Chorro Creek. This creek and its tributaries flow intermittently when local precipitation is sufficient.

The climate is generally that of an oceanic (Mediterranean) type. Within the foothills of the site, the summers are warmer and dryer while the winters become cooler and wetter. The sun shines about 60 percent of the time in the winter and 80 percent in the summer. Rainfall averages 16 inches a year. The average winter temperature is 48 F with average daily minimums of 34 F. In summer, the average is 70 F, with the average daily maximum being 91 F.

Since January 1995, large scale restoration of grasslands at Camp San Luis Obispo (CSLO) has been attempted using livestock grazing as a management tool. Rotational grazing has been augmented by site-specific rehabilitation prescriptions in actively disturbed or eroding areas. Results of three years of LCTA forage production sampling outside and inside of a fenced exclosure (to protect the federal and state endangered Chorro Creek bog thistle) show how grazing directly impacts health and productivity of the ecosystem. Comparisons of samples taken show that forage production and soil productivity is much greater outside (with grazing) than inside (rested from grazing 3 years). Between 1995-1997, land management outside of the exclosure (rotational grazing) proved more beneficial in restoring soil ecosystem health than management inside (complete rest). Studies of the bog thistle population itself (1994-1998) showed a similar long term decrease in numbers concurrent with the cessation of grazing. Plans to allow limited grazing inside the exclosure are underway to help determine the range of disturbance which is beneficial to both the bog thistle and soil productivity.


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