Memorial Stadium rubble is a pearl to state

Concrete will be used to build an oyster reef

April 04, 2002|By Heather Dewar | Heather Dewar,SUN STAFF

Chunks of concrete rubble from the city's demolished Memorial Stadium -- enough to bury the beloved old ball field's diamond nearly 9 yards deep -- will be used to create an artificial oyster reef in the Chesapeake Bay off the mouth of the Patapsco River.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources plans to plant more than 4 million baby oysters on the reef, an experimental weapon in the war against the diseases that have ravaged the bay's once-abundant oyster beds.

"We're using one cultural icon to rejuvenate another," said Bill Goldsborough, senior fisheries scientist at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, one of several conservation and sportsmen's groups helping build the reef.

Not everyone sees it that way.

"It's the last straw," said state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, who fought unsuccessfully last year to stop the demolition of the downtown stadium, built in 1954 to honor World War II veterans.

"It's just saying to the veterans, `We don't care about you. Let's throw 'em in the ocean.'"

DNR officials say the stadium's remains will be respectfully treated. The 8,000- cubic-yard reef will be an oyster sanctuary, off limits to harvesting, said Eric Schwaab, DNR's fisheries director.

Oyster diseases thrive in the saltiest parts of the bay. Fishery managers hope the reef's site, in fresher water between the Patapsco and Kent Island, will make it a good home for disease-free oysters raised in a University of Maryland hatchery.

Their offspring, carried naturally by the tides, could help repopulate decimated oyster bars, Schwaab said.

The proposal is expected to get a permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment and construction should begin in the summer, Schwaab said. Cleaned stadium concrete will be topped with a layer of oyster shells and spat.

Reusing the stadium concrete will overcome a shortage of natural oyster shells and keep the concrete from going to a landfill, he said.

That argument didn't impress Schaefer, the former Baltimore mayor who is not resigned to the loss of the former home field for the Orioles and the Colts.

"They should take the rubble and dump it in a landfill and forget it," Schaefer said. "I'm not very happy about it.

"Maybe the oysters will open up and sing. You never can tell."

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