Also honors “Port Chicago 50” Black sailors he defended against court martial
By Dave Mason, Public Information Supervisor, East Bay Regional Park District
On Tuesday, June 1, 2021, the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors unanimously voted to name the new regional park at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station “Thurgood Marshall Regional Park – Home of the Port Chicago 50.”
The name “Thurgood Marshall Regional Park – Home of the Port Chicago 50” recognizes the service of young African American sailors who served their country, both by serving in the US Military during WWII, and also by standing up to the US Military’s racially discriminatory policies of the day.
Their courage, and the advocacy of NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall on their behalf, ultimately led to desegregation of the military and changed the course of history.
This naming itself is historic, as this is the first regional park in Contra Costa County to be named after an African American.
“The Thurgood Marshall Regional Park – Home of the Port Chicago 50 park name acknowledges this important Black American history and social justice significance,” said East Bay Regional Park District Board Director Beverley Lane who has represented Concord on the East Bay Regional Park District Board since 1994. “Thurgood Marshall brought national attention to the case that prompted the U.S. Secretary of the Navy to order desegregation of the U.S. Navy in 1946,” added Lane.
Several community organizations, including the NAACP and Friends of Port Chicago National Memorial support the naming of the park in honor of Thurgood Marshall and the Port Chicago 50. The Park District’s citizen-led Parks Advisory Committee unanimously supported the name at its meeting on May 24. The City of Concord unanimously endorsed the park name at its May 29 City Council meeting.
“The new Thurgood Marshall Regional Park – Home of the Port Chicago 50 park name has both historical and representational significance,” said Congressman Mark DeSaulnier. “As a defender of the Port Chicago 50 in their historic fight against discrimination and wrongful conviction, Thurgood Marshall played an important role in their story. The trial, and Marshall’s role in it, helped to play a role in the desegregation of the Armed Forces. As the first African American Supreme Court justice, Marshall is more than deserving of this honor.”
The plan for the newly named “Thurgood Marshall Regional Park – Home of the Port Chicago 50” includes a joint visitor center with the National Park Service highlighting the history of the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial and the Diablo Valley, along with staging areas, and several miles of recreational trails for hiking, biking, and nature viewing. The Park District is partnering with the National Park Service on the future visitor center where this story can be told, along with all of the stories of this land, including its military history, agricultural history, natural history and restoration, and the stories of the Chupcan people who lived here.
“We appreciate all of the community’s input and engagement on this naming process, and we hope the support will continue as we work with our partners and elected officials to raise the funding needed to build a world-class visitor center in the park to tell these important stories,” said Park District General Manager Sabrina Landreth.
The Park District is currently designing road improvements and plans to open a portion of the expansive park south of Bailey Road within the next two to three years. The U.S. Navy and National Park Service officially transferred the 2,500 acres of open space to the Park District in 2019 after a two-decade process brought about by the decommissioning of the Concord Naval Weapons Station in the 1990s.
The East Bay Regional Park District is a system of beautiful public parks and trails in Alameda and Contra Costa counties east of San Francisco Bay, established in 1934. The system comprises 121,000 acres in 73 parks including over1,250 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature learning.