For years, the Los Alamitos community and the Armed Forces Reserve Center (located in its backyard) have forged some very important ties.
The city's Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza has been held there the past 14 years and last year attracted about 25,000 spectators. Only two months ago, thousands of runners, walkers and folks pushing strollers converged on the base to compete in the city's annual 10K/5K race, held there for the first time amid military helicopters and airplanes that dotted the course.
For about 15 years, a strawberry farmer has been mowing the huge expanses of land every few months, keeping weeds in check in exchange for the use of some of the valuable soil. During strawberry season, the farmer usually presents the base commander with some of the luscious fruit from his farm on the base.
The Olympic-size swimming pool is the "home" of the U.S. Women's Water Polo Team but is also used by thousands of local children and swim clubs each day. The city maintains the pool in exchange for its use.
The beautiful chapel, built in the shape of a cross, is the site of civilian weddings and services, Catholic and Protestant. The public welcome to worship at the chapel every weekend.
Some ball fields, adjacent to a neighborhood of vacant military housing, are leased to a Little League baseball team.
But as of late, and under base commander Brig. Gen. Guido J. Portante Jr., who has been there for less than year, potential associations between the community and the base are growing. While members of the community and county consider what services the center can offer, the Army National Guard Facility is also looking to fulfill its three primary roles, among them lending community support and creating outreach programs.
Already, the reserve base has many military tenants, according to Maj. Lisa Haskins. Each weekend the 1,400-acre base becomes a hub of activity as units such as the Army's National Guard 40th Infantry, the Marine Corp Reserve Company G, 2nd Battalion, the U.S. Army Reserve's 63rd Regional Support Command and a Seal Beach detachment of U.S. Navy Seabees drill.
It was built in the early '40s, and was an active Navy base. It was turned over to the Army, and then the National Guard in 1972. It was used as an airfield and for firefighting training exercises.
The list of organizations that want to use the base is long, and includes helicopter pilots who want to give rides for $20 during an upcoming helicopter show to the Orange County Fire Authority holding training for 30 rookie firefighters.
"In peacetime, it's important to reach out and share resources," Haskins said. "Nobody wants resources to go to waste."
For example, some county officials have expressed interest in leasing some of the land for soccer fields. Another group envisions a farmer's market and members of the Los Alamitos Commission of Fine Arts and Cultural Affairs discovered there's a theater on base that is rarely used and in fine condition despite its nearly 60 years.
The 1,046 seats could be used for performances and other artistic endeavors, said commission Chairman Greg Leach.
Leach said they are currently in the process of negotiating with base officials.
"Everybody seems willing to incorporate more of the community on the base," he said. "For example, I didn't know there were 50 [civilian] businesses on the base . . . I was under the impression that it was a restricted area."
He said the base has the need to reach out into the community for its survival and in turn, the community needs to find ready-made facilities to utilize.
"I think the cooperation between the two can satisfy a lot of needs."
Ana Cholo-Tipton can be reached at (714) 966-5890