Sunday, February 24, 2008

It is past time to clean up Almaden Air Force Base on Mt. Umunhum

Anyone who lives in the south bay has looked to the southwest and seen a massive tower on top of the mountains, specifically Mt. Umunhum. Many wonder what this is. This blog tells the story and gives a set of links to other resources, articles, and videos that tell the story well.

Simply stated, the United States government, and, specifically, the Defense Department and Army Corp of Engineers have left a polluted eyesore in open view to Silicon Valley. The site should be cleaned up so that the area is available to all hikers and mountain bikers in the MROSD; I do believe that the tower should remain as a remembrance of the cold war, much like the Nike site in Marin.

The MROSD is still trying to get this cleaned up. Notes from
the October 22, 2007 meeting
said "More than 20 years after the District’s purchase of the former Almaden Air Force Base atop Mt. Umunhum, near downtown San Jose, the Army Corps of Engineers’ has not fulfilled its promises, made at the time of the District’s purchase, to clean up the site. Over the years, the initially slow speed of cleanup activities has crawled along at a glacial pace before recently coming to a complete standstill. Even if the saying that all promise outruns performance is true, it is fully reasonable to expect the Corps to honor its commitment to clean up the site and that any remediation would have been fully completed in a twenty-year period. It is unreasonable of the government to require the District to wait any longer for progress on full remediation of the site. Based on the record to date, the District is left with little choice but to seek immediate federal action to ensure that the Corps fulfill its obligation and accelerate the remediation of the former Almaden Air Force Base."

My hope is that new blood in congress, such as Peter Myers and a new president will be able to drive this issue to a conclusion.

The Almaden Weekly Times had a very good article titled Mt. Umunhum: Up close and personal. There was also a Almaden Air Force Station Reunion Tour for veterans of the site in 2006. There is also a Youtube version called Almaden Radar Site - A Very Special Place.

There are a number of photo galleries: Almaden Air Force Base, a Flickr gallery

There have been attempts to get this situation addressed such as Excerpt from an article in the Mercury News in 2002 describing efforts to clean up the Air Force base (which, obviously, failed). A historical summary of the site and its turnover in the early 80's is also available.

There are a number of overview articles at Wikipedia for the Air Station, SummitPost, and a set of Historical pictures of the Air Force base

A number of people have braved the gates and the skull and crossbones on the road to the peak. A video is available, titled Assault On Mt. Umunhum. There are also two slideshows at Mt. Umunhum Slideshow and Mt. Umunhum.

More information on the Marin Nike site can be found at wikipedia overview, history of the Nike program, official website for the site, photo tour of a volunteer, history of all the Nike sites, and a YouTube video.


At 11:30 AM, Blogger Jack Smith said...

Hi Charles,

Just discovered your blog about Almaden AFS. I'm the fellow who made the YouTube video "Almaden Radar Site - A Very Special Place".

I lived up there in the early 1970's when I was a teenager. My dad was the base medic. It was paradise. We had to ride up down the mountain to school and back in old Air Force buses. Sometimes we would get snowed in and the school wouldn't believe us!

I agree with you about leaving the main tower, it would be nice to have a plaque on it as well commemorating the men and women who served their country at the site.

I've been up to the base a few times since it closed, very bittersweet. Loved thinking about the wonderful times I had there, but was sad to see it in such bad shape.

Once again thanks for your blog.

All the best,
Jack Smith

At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great info to know.


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