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Highland Industrial Park

Highland Industrial Park, a storage and testing facility for Defense Department contractors in East Camden, is in Calhoun and Ouachita counties. The 17,000-acre park contains 600 munitions storage bunkers. Used for testing and storing Navy ammunitions during World War II, much of the former depot now functions as the Highland Industrial Park, where several Defense Department contractors store munitions and conduct tests. This site has been referred to by a number of names including Shumaker Ordnance Plant, Camden Naval Ordnance Plant, Naval Operations Camden-Shumaker, and U.S. Naval Ammunition Depot - Shumaker, Camden, Arkansas.

The former Shumaker Naval Ammunition Depot (NAD), consisting of 68,417.82 acres, was located four miles northeast of Camden, Arkansas on the east side of U.S. Highway 79 and north of State Highway Number 4. The NAD covered land in two counties, Calhoun and Ouachita. The location is further described as being located at Latitude 33 degrees, 38 minutes North, and 92 degrees, 42 minutes West; 95 miles south of Little Rock, Arkansas and 87 miles east of Texarkana, Arkansas.

The site was operated by the U.S. Navy from 1944 until 1957 for the manufacture, testing, storage, distribution, disassembly, reworking, and destruction of ammunition, bombs, and explosives, principally rockets. It was operated by the National Fireworks Ordnance Corporation as a government owned - contractor operated (GOCO) facility under the supervision of U.S. Navy personnel. Improvements to the site included an elaborate railroad track and spurline system, hundreds of reinforced concrete storage magazines, loading dock facilities, headquarters and administration buildings, and an eight mile long rocket test range in addition to production and handling facilities for all types of high explosive admixtures, to include TNT, Composition "B", Ammonium Nitrate, RDX Base and aluminum powder.

International Paper in 1961 bought 40,000 acres of forest at the former naval depot. The Brown family of Texas, later famous for its partnership in the global Brown and Root construction company, bought the remaining 25,000 acres. The purchase included the headquarters buildings, the depot's extensive network of railways, hundreds of warehouses, production facilities and bunkers where the Navy stored explosives and ammunition. Highland Resources Inc., a subsidiary of Brown Engineering, then began operating the depot as an industrial park and defense contractors began taking over the old facilities. The Navy's housing area became the town of East Camden. The depot commander's house became a guest house for visiting consultants, executives and engineers.

The Reagan-era defense buildup swelled production and employment at the park. By 1984, the LTV Aerospace and Defense Company produced one MLRS rocket every three minutes and several launch vehicles every week in its East Camden plant. General Dynamics produced Sparrow missiles, and Hitech Inc., made demolition charges for the Army and underwater demolition kits for the Navy. The end of the Cold War brought defense spending cutbacks. Tracor and General Dynamics layed off workers, causing a rise in local unemployment rates. Tracor, which had 440 employees at the end of 1989, had only 90 by April 1990. General Dynamics, which once employed 1,500 workers, was by now down to 550.

Notable features located within the boundaries of the former installation are three cemeteries and the community of East Camden (formerly Billkitts Rental Housing). International Paper conducts forestry operations on approximately 40,000 acres. The majority of the remaining acreage is currently an industrial complex known as Highland Industrial Park. Occupants of the industrial park with ordnance related functions include: Lockheed-Martin, Loral Vaught Systems, Atlantic Research Corporation, BEI Defense Systems Company, Tracor Aerospace, Hughes Missile Systems, National Testing Service, Olin Industries, Camden Ordnance, Hitech Incorporated, and Austin Power.

Since beginning production in the early 1980s Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Camden Operations has produced more than 650,000 rockets and over 1,100 MLRS launchers. The current Camden facility performs final assembly, test and storage of missiles including the MLRS Extended-Range (ER) Rocket, the Reduced-Range Practice Rocket (RRPR) and the Guided MLRS Rocket. The plant produces MLRS launchers for the U.S. Army, Army National Guard and several allied armies, and produces HIMARS launchers for the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps, which designates HIMARS as the Marine Expeditionary Rocket System (MERS). The new facility will include world-class automated production and assembly equipment and be located near the existing Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) production plant.0

The April 28, 2001, explosion that occurred at the Highland Industrial Park complex located in East Camden, Arkansas consisted of two explosions that caused the destruction of the bunkers at the Highland Industrial Park. The initial explosion was relatively small in size and occurred at approximately 7:39 pm on the night of April 28, 2001, followed by a larger explosion occurring approximately one minute later creating a crater the size of football field. The igloo was being utilized for munitions storage by New River Energetics of Radford, Va., and managed by its parent company, Alliant Tech Systems. Approximately 142,000 pounds of assorted high explosives and smokeless propellants were stored in the bunker. The explosion totally destroyed the bunker and damaged surrounding bunkers. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) was ultimately unable to determine the initial cause of the explosion. However, investigators found no evidence of illegal entry into or tampering with the bunker.

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