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Curious get last glimpse at Fort Ritchie

September 28, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

FORT RITCHIE - Time is running out for those who want to get a final glimpse of Fort Ritchie.

The post will be off limits to the public Thursday, the same day the army officially closes the installation.

Only people who are renting apartments or working there will be allowed access, said John Moskal, senior site coordinator.

Moskal heads up a seven-member government caretaker force that is responsible for closing the post and getting it ready for transfer to the PenMar Development Corporation.

"We're not inviting people to come and look. The few people left are up to their eyeballs in a lot of work," he said.

The government is hiring people to dispose of the remaining furniture and equipment and make repairs to the 620,000-square-feet of building space.

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These days, the once-thriving military base is a virtual ghost town. The ducks outnumber the people.

Once-popular recreational areas - the two lakes, the golf course and swimming pool - are closed.

One day last week, former military police officer Dennis Estes was using an abandoned golf green for chipping and putting practice.

Estes, a soldier who now works at nearby Site R, said he's going to miss the conveniences.

He will be one of the few still allowed on post because he lives there.

After Thursday, even those who liked to jog or walk their dogs there will be prohibited. That includes one unidentified man, who would often park under a tree and read a newspaper.

"It's for their protection as well as the protection of government property," Moskal said.

Those who don't have permission to be there will be trespassing.

Although there will be few government employees left after Wednesday, a temporary workforce will help with maintaining the post and providing fire protection, he said.

Police emergencies will be handled by the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

From the outside looking in, little will change.

The front gate will remain open, but a sign in front will read: "General Notice: Effective 1 October 1998, Fort Ritchie closed as an active army installation. This post is no longer open to the general public. Authorized personnel only beyond this point. By order of the Military District of Washington."

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