March Air Force Base’s downsizing created a ghost town. Here’s what’s there now – San Bernardino Sun

Would you trade thousands of jobs for a 4,500-acre ghost town?

The Inland Empire had no choice when March Air Force Base downsized in 1996. Left behind in the blizzard of pink slips was a maze of ex-military waste sites and abandoned buildings between Moreno Valley, Perris and Riverside.

Today, that land is home to about 90 businesses employing 12,000 people, parks, trails, senior and veteran housing, a Metrolink station, a widened freeway interchange and infrastructure like a concrete channel to prevent flooding.

Now, the public agency that guided the transformation is set to fade away in three to four years.

“We’ve restored, essentially, the jobs that were lost” when March downsized, said Grace Martin, executive director of the March Joint Powers Authority.

The authority’s land is “mostly developed,” said Dan Fairbanks, the authority’s planning director. “We will be essentially all developed (at) the point we wind down.”

Riverside County Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, who sits on the authority’s governing board, supports sunsetting the authority, saying via email that the agency “was never meant to be a permanent long-term form of government.”

As the authority nears the end, March Air Reserve Base’s future looks rosy. The U.S. Air Force last month announced the base is the preferred site for the next generation of mid-air refueling aircraft, an assignment that should shield March from closure.

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