26 December 2010

Travels And Travesties

The weather gods are taking their revenge on me for yesterday's post. Today it's 37 degrees in Jacksonville, and the precipitation has taken the distinct characteristics of snow. Yes, snow in the River City, it's not sticking and it melts as soon as it touches anything, but it is snow nonetheless. I would still rather be here than at the Refuge where they have 5 inches already and are expected to accumulate another three before it is all over.

Today I took a side trip to my old stomping grounds on the former NAS Cecil Field (now Cecil Commerce Center) just to see what had changed and what had remained the same. NAS Cecil Field fell to disbelief and the BRAC axe back in 1999, no one in Florida could believe the Navy would do something so foolish as to close a base with such beautiful runways situated where the jet noise was not bothersome to the locals in favor of a base that was completely surrounded by a hostile city. They were wrong.

The barracks are all gone, of course, as are the old commisary and the enlisted and Chief's clubs. Most of the remaining structures are in use as offices now, the gym is still a gym, and the on-base housing that remains has been taken over by a private management facility, as has the golf course.

The change that surprised me the most is the draining of Lake Fretwell. The playground and ball diamonds are still there, but the man-made lake has been drained and grass now grows where alligators once swam. Apparently the cost of keeping the lake up was too great for the Cecil Pines management company to want to cover.

Once upon a time the Navy made some noise about re-opening Cecil Field. The city of Jacksonville said they would be glad to share the base, but the Navy wanted it back the way they had it. Since the city is making money from Cecil Commerce Center of course it went nowhere.

I'm certain there is a lesson to be learned there somewhere.


Anonymous said...

Larry, Thank you very much for posting these photos. I was stationed out of Cecil Fld. for 16 years. I went from VA-82 to AIMD to VFA-86 to NAMTRA to VFA-136. It goes without saying that I LOVED this base. The photos of Lake Fretwell make me sad. Back in my day that was a fantastic lake for bass fishing. I spent so much time at that lake even many times going there from the hangar to fish during lunch break. I caught more bass than I could count out of that lake over the years always unhooking and returning them unharmed to the water. Man, it's sad to see what it has turned into. What about Lake Newman? Did you get over by there to check it out as well? Thank you, mystic.rhythms@live.com

Larry said...

I didn't get out to check Lake Newman, sorry.
I was sad to see what has befallen Cecil as well. I got there in 93 after being a Tomcat guy at Pax, went through NAMTRA and on to the IWT shop at VFA-136. Maybe we knew some of the same people.
82 and 86 both went to MCAS Beaufort SC. I was at Strike Fighter Wing for the move, so I was pretty involved with getting everyone out of Cecil and settled at Oceana.
Thanks for dropping by!