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Shiloh Krupar, Wings over the Rockies Air Museum on a portion of the former Lowry Air Force Base, 25 September 2014,

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Lowry Air Force Base

Named after Second Lieutenant Francis Lowry—the only Colorado pilot killed in WWI combat—Lowry Field and Lowry Air Force Base were established in 1938 and 1948, respectively. Military operations, including high-explosive bombing practice, explosive ordinance disposal training, gunnery and small arms training, and chemical warfare training occurred on site beginning in 1942. In the 1950s, Lowry AFB served as headquarters for the Technical Training Air Force, whose courses included armament, rocket propulsion, radar-operated fire-control systems, and guided missile operations. The site also functioned as President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Summer White House from 1952-1955. In addition, the former Lowry bombing range houses the launch complexes for the Titan I ICBM, which were first placed on alert status in April 1962.

The frequency of accidents at Lowry and the legacy of environmental and human health impacts of base operations pose ongoing threats to the safety and well-being of residents and former base workers. Fuels and solvents, as well as pollutants from storage tank breaches, have filtered through storm sewers and pervaded the ground. More than nine highly toxic sites have been identified at the base, evidencing pollutants in the soil and groundwater with concentrations of 200 to 300 parts per billion—approximately 40 times higher than what the Colorado state government allows. The Air Force sought to address hazardous materials at the former base through removal and site remediation until 2002, when administration of the site shifted to the Lowry Redevelopment Authority for the purpose of redeveloping and urbanizing the area.

The Former Lowry Bombing and Gunnery Range was designated a FUDS site in 1991. Remediation—with “final stages” beginning in 2013—shortly followed, and has included removal of chemical agent identification sets and asbestos. After serving as a City and County of Denver disposal site for liquid and solid municipal and industrial wastes from the mid-1960s to 1980, the Lowry Landfill, located in the northwest corner of the Range, was inducted into the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priorities List of Superfund sites in 1984 for prioritized remediation. The majority of the former base and bombing range now comprise the neighborhood of Lowry, Denver, which has been lauded for its reuse of military “brownfields'' for mixed-use neighborhood redevelopment. Base air hangars and other military remnants have been repurposed for educational institutions in the area.

Sources

Kesting, Amanda. “This Former Air Force Base is Now a Popular, Quiet Denver Neighborhood.9News. May 10, 2017. Accessed September 9, 2020. 

Mueller, Robert. Air Force Bases, Volume 1: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, U.S. Air Force, 1989.

Strategic Air Command. “SAC Bases: Lowry Force Base.Strategic-Air-Command.com. Accessed September 10, 2020.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Denver, CO: Former Lowry Air Force Base Missile 1.” April 15, 2015. Accessed September 10, 2020.

 
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