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Proposed cell tower a concern

Preservationists say a 180-foot cell tower proposed for the highest point of South Mountain would disrupt the landscape of Antie

Preservationists say a 180-foot cell tower proposed for the highest point of South Mountain would disrupt the landscape of Antie

June 25, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

A 180-foot cell tower proposed for the highest point of South Mountain would disrupt the landscape of Antietam National Battlefield and three other counties, preservationists say.

The Maryland Department of Budget and Management wants to erect the tower on Lamb's Knoll. The land is owned by the state Department of Natural Resources, spokeswoman Heather Lynch said.

Lamb's Knoll is along the Appalachian Trail on South Mountain, about one mile south of Reno Monument Road between Fox's Gap and Crampton's Gap.

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Lynch said the tower would service the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, the National Park Service, 911 communications for Washington and Frederick counties, Maryland Natural Resources Police, the Maryland State Forest and Park Service and Maryland State Police.

Dennis Frye, a Civil War historian, said the tower's height is a threat to the Antietam National Battlefield landscape in Washington County, as well as to the skylines in Jefferson County, W.Va., Frederick County, Md., and Loudoun County, Va.

"We might as well see the Gettysburg Tower on Lamb's Knoll, it'll be that ugly and that intrusive," Frye said. "I don't oppose a tower at that location. The concern here is the ridiculous height."

Frye, who gives tours at Antietam National Battlefield, said he points out to visitors Lamb's Knoll as the highest point on South Mountain.

"I can see it very visibly," he said.

Paul Rosa, of the Harpers Ferry Conservancy, said concerned residents found out about the tower "by accident" after checking an Federal Aviation Administration database for information on a new strobe light for another tower.

"I just think the proposal was not fully thought through," Rosa said.

He said a state official told him that the tower could reach 195 feet if the state erects an antenna on the top.

Rosa said he fears that if the tower goes up, others will follow. He said he expects a "swell" of people to oppose the tower, in particular, Civil War enthusiasts and residents of Pleasant Valley.

"The Civil War people feel that South Mountain is sacred ground," Rosa said.

South Mountain was the site of a Sept. 14, 1862, battle that involved about 13,000 Confederate soldiers and 36,000 Union troops.

According to a statement from Rosa's organization and the Mid-Maryland Land Trust Association, the conservation groups have asked Gov. Parris N. Glendening to put a stop to the tower.

"Unless the governor acts quickly, the tower will be a done deal and this metal monolith will become South Mountain's defining feature," Land Trust Association President Paul Gilligan said in a written statement.

Frye and Rosa said they plan to petition the state to find ways to make the proposed tower less visible and to have an opportunity to discuss alternatives with state officials.

They said the Department of Natural Resources should also help protect the area's landscape.

"DNR is supposed to be our friend," Frye said. "Come on guys, let's think about this."

Lynch said a public hearing would be held, but did not have a date available. She also said the tower would provide valuable services to the public.

"We insist that there be a public hearing on this matter," Frye said. "We don't want to see a tower go up one night with a blinking strobe light that blinds the Cumberland Valley."

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