THE CLOSING of the U.S. Navy Ship Research and Development Center on a 231-acre peninsula that juts into the Chesapeake Bay is a momentous decision for Annapolis.
The U.S. Naval Academy is the new owner of this breathtakingly scenic piece of real estate that contains many of the remnants of Providence, the 1648 Puritan community built by Maryland's first European settlers.
The site has been a radio facility going back to 1918. It currently contains 15 giant transmission towers on its antenna farm and provides very low frequency communications for submarines in the Atlantic Ocean. Little archaeological digging has been done there; researchers are understandably eager to sink their trowels into the Greenbury Point soil.
What will the academy do with the peninsula? That is not clear. Along the land, about 30 buildings will be turned over to the academy, which may want to use them. Part of the peninsula has a street grid and the academy's golf club occupies a site on Mill Creek.
Because the communications station site has been off limits to the public, this large, generally undeveloped peninsula is a premier winter bird-staging area. Environmentalists are sure to demand that the academy be as hospitable a landlord to the birds as the U.S. Navy has been.
Yet it would be a pity if the public is not given some type of entry, however limited, to the peninsula and its breathtaking vistas between the Bay Bridge and Annapolis' historic harbor. It would not even have to have road access, which might prove too ecologically disturbing. A gentler way to handle that question might be to designate a visitor area accessible only by boat.
If the future of the ship research and development center property is wisely determined, the peninsula could become an asset that could benefit the whole area.
Because no timetable has been set for dismantling the antenna towers, there is ample period for community discussion of the peninsula's future uses. We expect the academy will be as prudent a protector of this unusual property as was the U.S. Navy so future generations of Marylanders can benefit from its natural beauty.