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Navy set to remove towers on peninsula Communications station, built in 1918, is to close in Jan.; Site was Puritan settlement; Land was given to Naval Academy in realignment


Radio towers that provided key defense communications with Navy forces through World War II and the Cold War will be removed from a peninsula near Annapolis.

The Navy, which gave the 231-acre peninsula to the Naval Academy last year as part of a nationwide base realignment, plans to take down up to 15 of the towers on the spit of land jutting into the Chesapeake Bay.

The transmission station, commissioned in 1918 and tentatively set to close in January, provides very low frequency radio transmissions to the Navy's strategic and tactical submarines in the Atlantic Ocean and to NATO forces. Some of its functions are duplicated by other facilities, and others are being switched to Iceland and Puerto Rico or are outmoded, Navy officials said.

There is no timetable for dismantling the towers, but site studies have begun, said Elaine R. Cardone, a naval telecommunications program official in Norfolk, Va. As part of those studies, the Navy is trying to schedule a public meeting for Nov. 29.

"Yes, they are going to come down," said Cmdr. Dennis Ventura, one of several Naval Communications-Atlantic officials overseeing the removal of the towers. About 30 buildings at the station will be turned over to the Naval Academy.

The peninsula's historic and environmental significance makes the land's final use of widespread local interest.

"An important part of Providence is there," said Alvin H. Luckenbach, Anne Arundel County archaeologist. "The historical records would indicate eight, maybe 10, house sites would be on that peninsula."

Providence was a 1649 Puritan settlement that predates Annapolis. Little excavation of the site has been done, although a cellar from 1660 or earlier has been found.

Environmentalists point to abundant wildlife on one of the last large undeveloped waterfront tracts in the area, especially ospreys that nest in the towers. The peninsula is a premier winter bird-staging area in the Chesapeake Bay; waterfowl regularly draw throngs of bird-watchers.

XTC Steven Ailstock, an Anne Arundel Community College professor, and students from the college are using historical documents to restore 40 acres of marsh on the peninsula.

The Navy has not decided whether to keep three of the towers, which are landmarks at Greenbury Point. Known as the "Eiffel Towers," the navigational tools have told generations of Chesapeake Bay boaters that they have reached the mouth of the Severn River and the home of the Naval Academy.

"I would like to have them save all three," said Steve Carr, president of the Severn River Association.

Dean Johnson, Ward 2 Annapolis alderman, suggested lopping the top off one of the towers, leaving an observation platform.

What to do about the ospreys that live in the towers from March through October is one issue the Navy is expected to address.

"If osprey have nested on these towers, then the Navy might want to consider erecting platforms on telephone poles," said Kenneth D'Loughy, a wildlife biologist at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

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