The former Camp Grant was located northwest of Chicago near Rockford in Winnebago County. During WWI, the camp included such buildings as barracks, a headquarters building, a cavalry remounting station, stables, kitchens, heating plants, a hospital, blacksmith shops, a theater, a mess hall and training rooms. The Rifle Range at Camp Grant was located in New Milford just south of Rockford, Ill.
Camp Grant Rifle Range was previously used to train U.S. Army ground troops in small arms, rifle, 37-mm infantry gun, mortar, and machine gun training. This training was in preparation for combat during World War I and medical replacement personnel during World War II.
In 1956, the 312 acres of the former rifle range was donated to the Rockford Park District for use as an outdoor center for youth. The current Atwood Park is divided by the Kishwaukee River into two sectors, north and south. During the time Atwood Outdoor Education Center has been in operation, park officials and the public have found ordnance and explosives periodically. About 1,200 practice ordnance items were removed from the northeast section of the park since 1995. The unexploded ordnance was generated during infantry troop training. None of the ordnance items found contained any high explosive materials.
In February 1993, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers informed the Rockford Park District that the Corps had confirmed the presence of explosives ordnance at Atwood Park. All of the items found were practice rounds, which means they contained only low-level black powder explosives. These rounds were meant to emit a puff of white smoke upon detonation for observation impact.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District and Huntsville Engineering and Support Center completed the ordnance clearance and removal phase of the environmental investigation of the former Camp Grant Rifle Range, currently known as Atwood Park, in June 2004. This phase involved approximately 16 acres of the northern section of the former Rifle Range and included conducting surface and subsurface clearance for up to two feet of the topsoil.
The five acres of Blackhawk Valley Campground, located east of the former Rifle Range, were also investigated. The likelihood of finding any ordnance was extremely small due to the range limitations of the type of mortars that were fired. The ordnance clearance took place during daylight hours, four days a week. Visitors were able to access the campground during peak times, particularly weekends.
To ensure the safety of the park and residents, a work safety zone was established before destroying any ordnance items in place. Although, the risk to area residents and park patrons was very minimal, residents within the safety zone were still notified prior to detonating any ordnance, which usually occurred late in the workday.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its contractor have completed the ordnance clearance on the last 16 acres in the northern most area of the former Camp Grant Rifle Range, currently known as Atwood Park. The clearance was finished in the Blackhawk Valley Campground before Memorial Day weekend, but required an additional two weeks to survey the rest of the property. The Corps completed the ordnance clearance on June 11, 2004.
A total of five 3” Stokes mortars and two 37mm artillery rounds were found and destroyed. All were sand-filled practice rounds, which mean the cavities were found to be empty of any explosive material. A report on the ordnance clearance is being prepared and will be reviewed by the Illinois EPA before being finalized.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers developed a Preliminary Assessment Report, which researches historical documents and photographs to determine the need for additional environmental investigation.