Manzanar, A Former Internment Camp, Breaks Visitor Record
Over 105,000 people paid a visit to Manzanar National Historic Site in Inyo County in 2016, which broke their previous record of 95,000, set in 2015. The Manzanar Historic Site was established by Congress 1992 on the grounds of a former internment camp where thousands of Japanese Americans were relocated during World War II. Visitors to the site in 2016 included guests of all ages, as well as Japanese Americans who had once lived there, according to a release from the National Park Service. The site had an increase in visitors of 23 percent in 2015, and 11 percent in 2016.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order in 1942 that allowed the government to round up over 110,000 Japanese Americans and nationals and forcibly relocate them to ten camps located in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Idaho, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. Those interned in these camps were forced to give up their homes and most of their belongings, regardless of how long they had lived in the United States or if they were U.S. citizens. According to NPS, "About two-thirds of all Japanese Americans interned at Manzanar were American citizens by birth. The remainder were aliens, many of whom had lived in the United States for decades, but who, by law, were denied citizenship."One such camp was Manzanar. Over 10,000 people lived in sparse, harsh and crowded conditions. The camp was surrounded by a barbed wire fence with eight guard posts and was regularly patrolled by military police. According to the National Park Service, it was up to those who lived there to make the most of their lives. They put together various clubs, participated in sports, formed their own newspaper known as the Manzanar Free Press and took up gardening.
Prior to WWII, Manzanar was initially home to Native Americans until European ranchers and miners showed up in the mid-1800s. While Japanese Americans would be forcibly relocated to Manzanar decades later, Native Americans were forcibly removed from the area and relocated to Fort Tejon in 1863. The property enjoyed some success as an apple orchard until Los Angeles successfully acquired water rights in Owens Valley, leading to the area's demise. Manzanar was abandoned until its use as the Manzanar War Relocation Center.
This past year, the Block 14 women's latrine was reconstructed and will showcase exhibits in the future, according to a release from NPS. Additionally, a new sidewalk was built throughout the park for accessibility.