WWII Testing Site Investigation

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It's called the Forgotten Coast.

But local residents and the Army Corps of Engineers haven't forgotten a long closed Army Training Center due to some potentially dangerous reminders.

It's a place where people come to fish or take a relaxing walk along the beach.

What could possibly interrupt the sounds of waves washing up along the shore on a beautiful sun splashed day?

How about an unexploded shell.

Reporter: "Pretty scary stuff isn't it?" "Ya it is," said Gloria Rowley.

Gloria and her husband built their home on Alligator Point nearly 20 years ago.

Like many people in the area, they've received several letters from the Army Corps of Engineers.

They include a recent one sent earlier this month.

It says a crew will be coming to their property to search for buried ammunition from the long closed Camp Gordon Johnston
World War II Training Center.

"When we built the house, I was thinking about what if we hit one of those shells when we were putting pilings in," said Gloria.

"We've never had a detonation when we dig in someone's yard," said Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Roland Belew.

However, as a precaution, the Corps is evacuating residents when they dig in their yards.

They're currently in the Alligator Point area.

"We're also investigating areas out in the water where things were supposedly fired," said Belew.

The entire land investigation area covers nearly 160-thousand acres in Franklin County where the camp was located.

A Carabelle Museum chronicles the history of the camp.

It includes a shell a lady found in her garden.

"We're getting things in all the time, artifacts that have come out in the area," said Bobbye Winchester of the Camp Gordon Johnston Museum.

"There are some live items that have been found," said Belew.

Gloria remembers about ten years ago, when two live shells where found at the Alligator Point Marina.

Now, she's happy to have her own property checked.

"I don't want to be digging any holes and not know what's down there," said Gloria.

The Corps is warning residents if they find anything resembling ammunition don't touch it and call 9-1-1.

Visitors and residents might stroll the nearby Gulf Beaches for sea shells, but now there's a search for a different kind of shell.

The Army Corps of engineers is currently looking for munitions potentially buried over nearly 160,000 acres in Franklin County, including Alligator Point.

That area was the old World War II era Camp Gordon Johnston Amphibious Training Center.

By 1948, the military had transferred all the land to private property.

So you may wonder why the Army Corps of Engineers is looking for rockets, grenades, artillery rounds and mortars 65 years later.

We're told it was not uncommon at the time to bury that type of ammunition.

A 1986 law gave the Defense Department authority to clean up old sites.

For the last 27 years, it's been done on a priority basis.

The Defense Department is now focusing on Franklin County.

Although it means the area wasn't a top priority, it doesn't mean there isn't potential danger.

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