This is a journal of images by California photographer Skip Moss. The places, people, and events caught through my lens. Photographs of the Central Coast and mountains of California, the landscapes of the Western U.S. and travels abroad.
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All images © 2013 and beyond, Skip Moss.


Fort Ord Habitat Preservation

Fort Ord is a retired Federal Army Base located on the Monterey Peninsula. Originally purchased in 1917 it became Camp Ord in 1933 and designated Fort Ord in 1940. Used as the U.S. Army primary basic training facility for thirty years, at one time 50,000 troops were staged there on their departure to war. In 1976 the training area was deactivated and it became the home of the 7th. Infantry Division on their return from the Korean War and years in the DMZ.
Fort Ord was permanently closed in 1994 by congressional legislation.
The property was divided and is now shared by the Cal State University Monterey Bay, UC Santa Cruz, and several municipalities surrounding it.
In 2012 the Eastern sections of the old base were designated Fort Ord National Monument.
Current land use plans designate the extensive coastal live oak forest as open space. Developers and county supervisors have a different plan.
There are designs for a horse race track, equestrian center, shopping malls, residential development, and all the associated urban construction associated with these uses.
The new plans include the destruction of an entire ecosystem, approximately the size of Carmel-By-the-Sea with estimates of 50 to 75 thousand oak trees to be removed. Full grown, fully mature, aged oak trees in a thriving landscape.
What really makes this heart sickening is the fact that most of the existing built out urban areas of the former facility are abandoned. The military left them in good condition in 1994. Today the place looks like a war zone itself. There are square miles of urban blight prime for redevelopment.
Because of hazards left behind by the federal government, developers are encouraged to bulldoze the forest. It should not be less costly to destroy an intact ecosystem than to remove and/or reuse the hundreds of army barracks, buildings, and parking lots. Redesign of urban areas can promote the oak lands as the center point of value, not the easiest, cheapest land to confiscate and destroy.  
An initiative has been written, and a small group of locals are requesting signatures to get it to a vote in the November election in Monterey County.
Out of respect to the veterans the initiative specifically does not impact the proposed Veterans Cemetery property and plan in any way, and only strives to protect 540 acres of currently designated open space from development of a horse racing track that will devour 50,000 mature trees and bring an increase of crime and congestion to the cities of Seaside and Marina.
The general plan at this time promotes the devastation of a healthy system because it is cheaper than re-use of urban blight. If you know anyone in Monterey County who can vote please inform them about this. If you want to help please send them ANY amount you can to help them get this on the ballot.
For more information please visit the website at:

On recent trips to the area, to enjoy the open trails and beautiful rolling oak forests, I spent time photographing one section of the buildings, and a very small section of the oak woodland.
Below are just examples of an entire forest slated to be mowed. The buildings are all open and decaying.

Open your browser window as wide as possible, and take a look.

Archival quality, signed and matted limited edition prints of all of these images are available in a variety of sizes. 50% of the price will go directly to the preservation of the Oak Woodlands. Please contact me for information.

A seasonal wetlands reflects the forest

One of hundreds of abandoned barracks

This graceful oak stands where a horse race track will be built

All of the interiors have been vandalized and remain open

The oak canopy provides shade for a thriving understory

Two sets of hand prints decorate an administration office 

Thistles and a discarded mattress in the courtyard of the barracks

Another fully mature oak in the way

Paintball shots and delicate quill graffiti 

The density of the trees causes oaks to reach vertically for sunlight

Left in perfect condition in 1994, now just the frame remains

Prayer flags hung on a tree marked for removal

This interior says it all

While the crumbling buildings remain accessible, the forest is now off limits except to the bulldozers

Ominous graffiti says "Seaside Beware" on a barracks

How much would this oak cost to have installed in a park?

Desks, chairs, dressers, beds, shelving, all left for trash

Open space like this is precious, and should be valued

Another poignant message

The diameter at the base measures six feet


Five Hundred Forty Acres just like this 

The legacy we leave can be a statement about our society

This oak fell over and balanced itself on its own stump

Former medical unit

A society of oaks holding together against the changes

Post war paint, there's miles of this not just a few buildings

Open roads provide recreational riding away from congested highways.

Awaiting the unknown

Wildflowers are abundant in the Spring

A true disconnect

Shouldn't we build on the blight instead of cutting these oaks?

 A solid oak chair left behind

Sorry, no trespassing

Green hearts, second floor

Open space or horse track? 

Medic, medic !


  1. If the military spent money on cleaning up its own mes instead of spending our taxes on tanks even the army says it doesn't need... Have the developers been offered a development rights trade off (like no taxes for ten years?) for cleaning up what the army left behind and then building on the old barracks building sites? If the neighbors are Universities, shouldn't they have a lot to say about what happens next door? Park service? Forest Service? What a mess. I wish I could vote in Monterey county.

  2. These photographs and Skip's narrative tell the story more powerfully than I've ever seen it conveyed.

    The University wanted a vote on the FORA board and was denied. The Fort Ord Reuse Authority tell us we must cut down oaks to pay to clean up the ruins. Other closed bases not having this option, reused and rebuilt in half the time the ineffective board has taken. This is theft, a massive transfer of the common wealth to the investor class. If the initiative fails, this land is gone, gated and guarded once again.

    The developers next door in Marina got sweetheart deals and tax breaks on land after taking the Mayor and City Council on a cruise and other backroom deals. Some of these photographs are their so called Phase II and III. We sit in rot while they wait for profit. Marina residents got really mad after their advertised live/walk/work proposal somehow morphed into a hideous big box parking lot just like the big box parking lot 4 miles away, and threw the bums out, but it is taking the rest of the Peninsula a while to wake up.
    Donations are needed at the Donate page.

  3. Utterly disgusted and dismayed ! I like they way you posted these amazing photos, as you alternated between building shots and the landscape photos.. I felt like I was standing there with you, looking in opposite directions.... really a disaster.

  4. Tina Dickason 9-16-13

    Skip, thank you so much for sharing these amazing photos. The image of the two rusted pipes, "A Total Disconnect," says it all. One can hardly believe these photos were taken in Monterey, CA, USA! (I think National Geographic could be interested in your work).


lives on the Central Coast of California. These photographs are an attempt to share the story of a place, a person, a moment as it happens. Sit back, take a deep breath, and spend some time enjoying the images.