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Joint use could end squabble over tower

August 02, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

A proposal to place a large communications tower atop South Mountain has put the forces of public safety and historic preservation into conflict. But a compromise might preserve the historic view from the Antietam Battlefield while ensuring that the needs of the agencies like the 911 communications systems are met.

The proposed 180-foot structure, which would have a 15-foot antenna on top of it, would be placed in an area of South Mountain known as Lamb's Knoll, between Crampton's Gap and Fox's Gap.

It would replace a 90-foot fire tower built 65 year ago, a structure which an official of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services said is not in good condition.

It would serve MIEMS, the 911 communications systems in Washington and Frederick counties and the National Park Service.

Opposing the idea are preservationists who say that the tower would adversely affect the view from the Antietam and South Mountain battlefields.

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Is there a suitable compromise? Perhaps.

Paul Rosa, executive director of the Harper's Ferry Conservancy, said it might be possible to make the tower look like a tree.

The idea isn't as far-out as it might sound. For example, Cost of Wisconsin, Inc., has been crafting large trees, vines and simulated rock cliffs for more than 40 years to create more authentic-looking habitats for zoos.

But even a 180-foot "tree" would require aircraft-warning lights, defeating any work done to conceal its true purpose.

A more promising possibility might be to get agencies to use a 330-foot communications tower proposed in June near the Maryland State Police barracks in Hagerstown.

Could that tower, which would service state police and the Department of Natural Resources, also serve the agencies seeking the South Mountain tower? If all agencies can jointly use of a single tower away from the battlefield, then history and the needs of emergency agencies could be served at one site.

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