Navy towers' fate stirs concerns They are home to protected osprey in the summer

Puritan ruins are nearby

Greenbury Point structures would be blasted or dismantled

November 15, 1995|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The Naval Academy plans to keep Greenbury Point, the 231-acre peninsula that holds the Navy's landmark communications towers, as a wildlife refuge after the towers are demolished. But plans for removing the towers have provoked ecological and historical concerns.

Each summer, 15 to 20 pairs of osprey -- federally protected migratory birds -- nest in the towers.

"When they take down the towers, the osprey lose their nesting platforms," Allan Haury, president of the Maryland Ornithological Society, said yesterday.

He said he will raise the issue of accommodating those birds at a meeting scheduled Nov. 29 in Annapolis that is part of the environmental assessment the Navy must complete before doing anything with the site. Osprey, which nest in dead trees, often are just as satisfied with a platform on a pole, according to Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologists.

The Navy is proposing either to blast the towers with explosives or take them down by hand. Both methods will be evaluated in the environmental assessment.

But with the remains of Providence, the mid-1600s Puritan settlement, on the peninsula, the less disturbance to the ground the better, said Alvin H. Luckenbach, Anne Arundel County archaeologist.

"Anything involving digging is a potential threat," he said. He would prefer that the Navy leave in place the concrete anchors and support wires, rather than dig them up.

The towers, which provided key defense communications with Navy forces through World War II and the Cold War, are no longer needed and will be turned off in January. They are to be removed in 1999, said Elaine R. Cardone, a spokeswoman for the Navy in Norfolk, Va.

The land is to be turned over to the Naval Academy and managed as a wildlife sanctuary. "Our intent is to maintain the natural beauty of the area out there," Capt. Edward C. Wallace, deputy for operations at the academy, said yesterday.

Because of the wildlife and the remains of Providence, the peninsula, which juts into the Chesapeake Bay, is of environmental and historic significance.

It is home to foxes, deer and rabbits, said Steve Ailstock, director of the environmental center at Anne Arundel Community College, who helped the Navy design wildlife havens on the peninsula.

It is a favorite bird-watching spot around Annapolis, known for ducks, geese and even a covey of quail. No hunting is allowed.

Since July 1994, when then-Superintendent Adm. Thomas C. Lynch said the academy probably would use the land to expand the 338-acre school, conservationists have feared that the school would turn the property into a new home for its prep school or a golf course.

But with no money for such a project and no reason to move the prep school from Newport, R.I., the only changes anticipated to the peninsula will be the removal of the towers and some 30 buildings there, Captain Wallace said.

In 1969, the Navy dynamited five towers and built new ones there. The 16 antenna towers, which range in height from 66 feet to 1,200 feet, include three Eiffel Tower-like structures whose blinking lights have welcomed generations of boaters to the Severn River, home to the Naval Academy and Annapolis harbor.

Some in the community would like to see all three historic lattice towers remain, and others, such as Dean Johnson, alderman from Annapolis' Ward 2, would like to see the top taken off one tower to create an observation platform. But the Naval Academy does not have the money to maintain the towers, said Captain Wallace.

Displays on Greenbury Point and the Navy's proposed alternatives will be available for review from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 29 at the Clipper Club, 330 Kinkaid Road, Annapolis. A planning session will take place during the last hour.

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