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A Bird's-eye view of Lunga Park

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jeffery Stevens

Lunga Park: Treasured Resource Reopens

3 Jul 2023 | Charles Wolf Marine Corps Base Quantico

Morale has been an important part of the Marine Corps since its founding and as all good leaders will attest, it’s also a key to the success of Marines and their families wherever they serve.

Morale comes in different shapes and sizes. It may look like campfires, boats, fishing, cabins and maybe even a lake or, in the case of Quantico, a reservoir. For decades, Lunga Recreation area and Reservoir was a favorite location for locals to relax, fish, camp, host command events, and even celebrate holidays like the fourth of July. In February 2012, after partially exposed mortar fins were found in the recreational area, Lunga was temporarily closed while Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), and the Marine Corps explosives safety authority conducted an area survey to determine if the park was safe for continued use. Based on the determination after the site inspection, the base commander closed the Lunga recreation area and reservoir on May 11th of that year until it could be cleared and deemed safe for public use.

May 26, eleven years later, a portion of the original area was reopened.

Lunga Reservoir dates back to World War II, when Quantico expanded what is now the base property west of Interstate 95. More space was needed for additional maneuvers and training during the war and became the home of Camp Barrett, where newly commissioned officers attended The Basic School after graduating The Officers Camp of Instruction, which would later be renamed Officers Candidate School.

Lunga Reservoir was constructed as a water source for Camp Barrett while the surrounding land areas were used as impact zones when Marines conducted live-fire training with mortars, artillery, and rifle grenades.

As new and more efficient ranges were constructed, all live-fire training shifted away from the reservoir area. Maps archived at Quantico’s Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Branch show that the Lunga Recreational Park was established during the mid-1960’s and consisted of a boat dock, separate enlisted, staff non-commissioned officer, officer areas, and a rod and gun club. In July of 1971, the addition of the civilian recreation and welfare association recreational area was approved for construction.

In 2001, the Department of Defense created the Military Munitions Program in which Congress mandated that all DOD installations, including formerly used defense sites, make an inventory of those sites that had former ranges or munitions usage and what those sites once were.

In order to properly assess and address the situation at Lunga Recreation area, an advisory council was formed. The team was composed of members from the NAVFAC, Washington Environmental Restoration, MCBQ G-F Installation and Environmental, Quantico Area Counsel Office, Range Management, Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS), Public Works, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Academy, and an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Tech Division from Indian Head, Md, who provided quality assurance support all throughout the cleanup process.

“Cleaning up a former Marine Corps range for safe recreational use by the public is no small feat,” said Victoria Waranoski, Environmental Engineer and Remedial Project Manager (RPM) for the Environmental Restoration Program, NAVFAC Washington. “I have been the lead for the Lunga cleanup since 2016. Most of our ERP sites do not have the intended land use that Lunga does. The investigation and cleanup at Lunga were much more comprehensive, and with that, much more time-consuming and expensive.”

The lead agency of the Lunga cleanup was the Department of the Navy, in partnership with the United States Environment Protection Agency and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

Crews scanned hundreds of acres inch by inch using highly advanced equipment like magnetometers, a hand-held, super sensitive detector that locates iron and steel, they also used Advanced Geophysical Classification, Simultaneous Location and Mapping equipment that estimated the properties of buried metal objects; specifically detailing the size, sometimes more than three feet underground. The most common munitions recovered during the cleanup were 2.36-inch rockets, rifle grenades, 75mm projectiles, and 60mm mortars.

As munitions were found, each was carefully excavated and identified. Every munition goes through a stringent certification, demilitarization, and verification process. They are designated as either safe-to-move or not safe-to-move by EOD professionals. If found safe to move for disposal, they are taken offsite for metal recycling/smelting or are securely stored, consolidated, and destroyed. If the items were not safe to move, they were destroyed in place. When items were destroyed in place, EOD Techs followed the standard DOD procedures.

“The administrative component to ensure public health is protected was also very comprehensive and time consuming,” said Warnanoski. The Lunga cleanup brought many leaders, branches, offices, and people together to make it all happen, setting and managing expectations regarding the course of action, schedule, and cost up and down the chains of command was the critical path for our success.”

In an interview before the park opened, Nancy Moorman, MCB Quantico MCCS Deputy Director was very excited about what they have been able to do for the community. “There’s going to be some great new features, and upgrades to Lunga Park that we’re really excited to offer everyone," she explained. "We will be unveiling a new general store, boat ramp, boat docks, volleyball court, refurbished pavilions, a kid’s playground, camping sites, grills, RV camp sites, metal circular fire pits and newly built rustic cabins, complete with beds, lamps, electricity, and air conditioning. We’ve also upgraded the RV storge lot as well,” said Moorman.

As the cleanup progressed, MCCS began working closely with NAVFAC to determine which areas would be acceptable for use. This also meant new construction and double-checking cleanup efforts.

Today, only a small portion of Lunga is open as cleanup and construction continues. Lunga Park is divided into 7 areas – Maple, Oak, Cedar, Pine, Hickory, FBI, and the former Civilian Welfare Recreation area. Maple and Oak are the first areas to be reopened.

“Currently, the entire recreation area is not yet open because cleanup is still underway in some areas. The ultimate goal is to have all the areas cleaned up for recreational use and back open for all to enjoy,” said Waranoski.

“I was here in 2012 when it closed, I watched it deteriorate over time and in just the last three years, have seen it built back up. It’s exciting! All involved have worked tirelessly to ensure that the park and reservoir are better and safer! We want everyone to come out and enjoy it,” said Moorman.

Marine Corps Base Quantico