SPARTANBURG CO., S.C. (WSPA) – Starting Monday, parts of Croft State Park in Spartanburg County will be closed to visitors as the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers works to locate and remove World War II munitions.
It’s unclear exactly how many munitions may be at the state park, but officials say there are many.
On Monday, contractors spent the day surveying the land, mainly looking for old homesteads and graves.
“Camp Croft, which is now Croft State Park, was an army training area. We trained replacement soldiers for those who had been injured or killed in the war,” Billy Birdwell with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers said.
Camp Croft was a World War II infantry replacement training center from 1941 to 1946.
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers told 7 News they’re responsible for cleaning up former defense sites like this one.
“At that time, we had lots of training with live ammunition over there. Some of that still remains in the ground at Croft State Park,” Birdwell said. “We put the stuff there. We want to take the stuff out and make sure our environment is safe.”
So, starting this week, they’ll be finding and excavating old military weapons and explosives.
“We’re going to pull them out of the ground and dispose of them properly,” Birdwell said. “Remove them and get them out of Croft State Park, and even destroy them or explode them if need be.”
The workers will first go through some safety training. Then, they’ll start digging and clearing some vegetation to look for metal fragments and pieces of ammunition.
“Contractors will be using ground-penetrating radar and other devices to find these locations,” Birdwell said.
Birdwell said they’re able to do the $36-million project thanks to funding from Congress.
“We grade FUD sites based on how much danger they pose to the public, to human life, and to property; and it’s time that we work on Camp Croft, so that’s what we’re doing now,” Birdwell said.
They’ll be clearing more than 1,200 acres of land. The clean-up will be done in sections and, while the public will have limited access to those areas, other parts of the park will still be open.
“When this is all finished, we should have a very nice, safe area for people to recreate without fear,” Birdwell said.
However, the Army Corp of Engineers asks that, if you happen to come across a munition while visiting Croft State Park, you get away from it quickly and report it.
“Recognize that something looks odd and doesn’t belong there. Retreat. Don’t pick it up, don’t play with it, don’t throw rocks at it, don’t take it home to collect it. Don’t do any of those things,” Birdwell said. “Just get away from it, but mark the area so you can report it to the authorities–either to the park rangers, park authorities, or, if really necessary, that’s a 911 call.”
Officials expect this project to take about two years, with it slated to end in the fall of 2022.
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers asks that, if you’re visiting Croft State Park and see their workers, please stay back and give them plenty of room for yours and their safety.