The Greening of Greenbury Point
by Dick D'Amato

Annapolis is about to witness a reversal in the national trend toward high-tech, high-rises and over-development. An area of almost 300 acres of steel, bricks, antennas, cables, cement blocks, high wires and tension wires is about to be transformed into an area of deer, songbirds, flowers, barn owls, heron and osprey. Where "no trespassing" signs and fences once stood will be a protected wildlife habitat and nature trails.

I am writing about the strip of land where the Severn River meets the Chesapeake Bay called Greenbury Point, the small peninsula on which sit the 19 gigantic Navy radio towers that have dominated the Annapolis skyline for more than half a century.

A few days ago, the U.S. Congress approved legislation that provides the needed $4.2 million to have these 1,000-foot monoliths removed and mandated that the area be restored and retained as a natural wildlife habitat.

The towers were once an important part of the U.S. Navy's global communications network. They provided state-of-the-art high-tech telecommunication at the time. They are now obsolete. By the year 2000, maintenance will cease, and the Navy concedes this could result in structural failures that would present both health and environmental dangers and threaten aviation safety when the lighting system becomes inoperative.

For these reasons, the towers must come down. Some people want to preserve one or two of the towers for navigational purposes or as historical monuments or simply for nostalgia. I understand these concerns and believe they should be accommodated, bearing in mind the cost of maintaining these structures could be several thousand dollars a year.

The question became what to do with this scenic, historic strip of land on which the Puritans in the mid-1600s founded Providence, the second oldest settlement in Maryland. [Learn more about Providence in "Letters from Lost Towns" in this week's Dock of the Bay.]

Without the recently approved congressional legislation, there would have been nothing to stop the Navy from constructing facilities on it or transferring control. If certain elements in the county got hold of this scenic area by the Bay, it could have meant high rises, town houses, shops, parking lots, parking meters, traffic lights and just more, more and more congestion.

Now it will be a permanent wildlife preserve. Chesapeake Bay flora and fauna will be protected in a time when so much of our county and country is being covered with cement and asphalt. The "conservation of our natural environments" said President John F. Kennedy, in his Special Message to the Congress on Conservation on March 1, 1962, is "the highest form of national thrift. It is our obligation to our children and the numberless generations that will follow."

Anyone familiar with the legislative process, whether federal or state, knows the cooperation and support needed for such a legislative endeavor. I was the staff attorney on the Senate Appropriations Committee that put together the coalition that moved the Greenbury Towers effort though the legislative process, from concept into law. This was truly a combined achievement of many Maryland lawmakers and interest groups.

Senators Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes were crucial in getting the money put into the Senate bill. Congressman Steny Hoyer was essential in ensuring that funding remained in the legislation through the conference process and final passage. Local environmental groups led by the Severn River Association and Steve Carr were always there writing letters, making phone calls and providing important advice.

Working with the U.S. Navy was, in this effort, a delight. As a Navy veteran and an officer in the Naval Reserves, I was well aware of the Navy's commitment to our environment and community as well as its important duties in protecting our country. This endeavor has reinforced that appreciation. The Navy's cooperation was important, its support commendable.

As a result of these dedicated and combined efforts, future generations will be able to experience and enjoy the beauty and grace of Chesapeake Bay the way God and nature made it.

Editor's note: Dick D'Amato, a candidate for the House of Delegates, District 30, has been endorsed by both the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters.

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Volume VI Number 31
August 6-12, 1998
New Bay Times

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