|Location: Riverside, California
Total Acreage: 6,610 Acres
Closed: March 1996
March Field, originally known as Alessandro Field, was built in response to news stories, circa 1917, regarding German efforts to build a fleet of aircraft. The War Department approved construction of the Alessandro Flying Training Field at an airstrip near Riverside, California, and the Army quickly built it. Quoting from the March Air Field Museum website: "Within a record 60 days the grain stubble-covered plain of Moreno Valley had been partially transformed to include 12 hangers, six barracks equipped for 150 men each, mess halls, a machine shop, a post exchange, a hospital, a supply depot, an aero repair building, bachelor officer's quarters and a residence for the commanding officer."
The facility was renamed March Field in March, 1918, in honor of 2nd Lt. Peyton C. March, Jr., son of the army chief of staff, who was killed in a flying accident the month before. The first troops arrived in April and the first Curtiss JN-4D (a biplane nicknamed the "Jenny") took off from March Field in May. Read more history here
As the oldest operational Air Force base on the west coast, personnel at March engaged in a wide variety of operations dealing with toxic and hazardous substances as early as 1918. Hazardous wastes were generated primarily from industrial operations such as aircraft cleaning and vehicle maintenance, fire protection training, and fuels storage and use. The base closed in 1996, although 2,169 acres were retained by the Department of Defense for use as March Air Reserve Base.
The environmental cleanup program at March began in 1983. A thorough search of base records, analysis of aerial photographs, and interviews with current and former base employees identified 28 sites of likely contamination requiring further evaluation. Collection and analysis of soil and water samples determined which contaminants were present. These further studies turned up more sites, bringing the total to 44. These sites were numbered and grouped into three operable units (OUs). Read more about cleanup activities here.
Today, excluding the Air Reserve Base, March provides a mix of housing, commercial and industrial development, a regional safety training center, and recreation at a popular golf course named for General Archie Old, who led three B-52s in the first non-stop jet flight around the world. The clubhouse at the General Old Golf Course was recently refurbished with an expanded pro shop and kitchen in the newly named Aviator Grille that features, for the first-time, a full-service bar. Read more here.