Reforesting Fort Ord

An image that includes renderings of trees and verdant landscapes with line drawings of people running, walking, and riding bikes on a road.

Traveling within a fuel break through the proposed remediated and planted landscape of Fort Ord. There are runners, a biking family, a canopy tower in the distance, foresters monitoring a stand of Monterey Pine, and a view of the Salinas Valley.

by Slide Kelly (MLA I AP, MDes ’24)

This thesis examines the potential for the conservation of Monterey pine biodiversity through the active planting of an experimental forest in the Impact Area of Fort Ord: a former US military firing range soon to become part of a national monument. It choreographs a plan for expanded munitions disposal alongside the planting of a human-assisted forest – within which thread a network of field stations, transformed fuel breaks for travel across partially off-limits land, and a redefined porous edge between Fort Ord and the neighboring city of Seaside, California. 

In proposing larger-scale remediation alongside a more-than-native-restoration, this thesis addresses the delicate balance between the passive ecosystem restoration that is status-quo for compromised US public lands and the destructive subsurface remediation needed for any alternative future for Fort Ord. The result is a landscape where once-prohibited neighbors – including Monterey pine – are allowed to arrive, challenging the colonial freeze-frame of what species can be “native” and where.

Reforesting Fort Ord provides a framework for re-connecting communities to locked-up public lands, and envisions how experimental forests, designed landscapes, and collaborative management can cultivate identity and social investment in a newly designated urban national monument. Here is a place once forbidden to people and to pines, where finally there is a possibility for more than preservation.