New World Avenue, secluded road, abandoned guard shack of what used to be Naval Air Station Cecil Field, the biggest such in Florida, abandoned parking lot and its cracking cement and asphalt, crumbled parking stones, saplings breaking up the ground.
Strange when the abandoned is not even dismantled. Dead wiring breaks free from flood lights that haven’t lit up in more than a decade. Control box rusting into disintegration, new green growth subsuming, reminders of what real power on this earth means. Vegetation will always supersede military superpower.
Just under 23,000 acres, the largest Naval Air Station in Florida was a sizeable block of an enormous Duval County from the early 1950s until federal Base Realignment and Closure decommissioned it in 1999. There were always rumors about what was back there in the woods on base, rumors about weapons, toxins, space aliens, Prisoners of War.
Subdivisions proliferated on former military grounds and warehouses and corporate “office parks” spread across large parts of the former Cecil Field landscape, and homicide victims were found dumped in the woods following base closure.
Behind a barbed-wire fence, a dirt road disappears into the distance in the pine trees and corners. Lost, dead roads, no ends or remaining purposes, power lines now dead and sagging and forgotten, grown high in weeds and young trees. The trees have entirely encased a speed limit sign, strange sight, nothing so pointless as a speed limit sign in the midst of dense woods, pointless and beautifully so.
STOP HERE PROCEED UPON SIGNAL FROM SENTRY WARNING RESTRICTED AREA IT IS UNLAWFUL TO ENTER THIS AREA WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE COMMANDING OFFICER. WHILE ON THIS STATION ALL PERSONNEL AND PROPERTY UNDER THEIR CONTROL ARE SUBJECT TO SEARCH SECTION 21 INTERNAL SECURITY ACT OF 1950, TITLE 50 USC 797. FIREARMS, CAMERAS AND FIELD GLASSES ARE PROHIBITED.
Welcome To ACE’S pizza place for pilots. Empty. Building 900, bowling alley now Northrop Grumman Corp. offices. Desolate fueling stations. No traffic. No trucks. No fueling. Crows in the trees. Large concrete slabs along New World Avenue, once just D Avenue, were placed before the pines to hold old fighter planes on display. Now the fighter planes are gone and the grass and the weeds are creeping across the concrete.
During the War of 1812, Thomas Jefferson wrote to the ambassador William Short, “Our enemy has indeed the consolation of Satan on removing our first parents from Paradise: from a peaceful and agricultural nation, he makes us a military and manufacturing one.”
But time passes, so do powerful manifestations of power, and vegetation roars back. The vegetation always roars back.
—Tim Gilmore, 07/17/2012