Teaming up to restore a historical landmark

Park: A Randallstown school and the federal government are working to clean up Fort Armistead, an abandoned waterfront property in Hawkins Point.

July 09, 2004|By Ilene Hollin | Ilene Hollin,SUN STAFF

Federal officials and high school students launched a joint effort yesterday to clean up Fort Armistead Park, an abandoned historical landmark and waterfront property in Hawkins Point.

The 45-acre park is in disarray, with overgrown bushes, littered grounds, a driftwood- and trash-filled beach, and a nonfunctional dock. The remains of the buildings are covered with graffiti, and the ground is blanketed with glass shards and beer bottles.

Built in 1898, the fort was named after Maj. George Armistead, who commanded Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.

Officials say it is barely fair to call the site a park. It is unsafe, the dock is a hazard, and the two miles of tunnels - despite rusty gates blocking the entrance - are overrun with animals, drug dealers and people involved in sexual activity.

"The goal is to restore the fort and all its parts to its former glory," said Gale Kooser, a marine safety officer for the Coast Guard Auxiliary and project manager for fort renovations.

Starting yesterday, 25 high school students from Strawbridge School in Randallstown will do landscaping and clean up brush in the park, along the Anne Arundel County-Baltimore line. Strawbridge is a special-education day and residential school that serves emotionally disturbed adolescents.

The city's Parks and Recreation Department has cleaned up trash and mowed grass, but it has 50 workers for 5,700 acres of city parks.

The Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary have been working for four years to clean up the park but say they are far from realizing their goals.

Strawbridge students could be a catalyst for progress. The four students at the park yesterday were excited about the fort's history but concerned that people would vandalize something of such significance.

Eric Kantor, Strawbridge's principal, said is a great opportunity for a cross-cultural curriculum for students.

They will learn about horticulture and history while gaining a sense of pride by volunteering, he said.

Although they are grateful for the help from the school, officials said, they will need heavy-duty assistance to complete the job.

"It is going to take an awful lot more by a national, state or regional organization interested in historical preservation to put the thousands of dollars into it needed to restore it," said David Bourdon, commander of the Coast Guard Auxiliary's Flotilla 17.

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