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Blossom Point Research Facility representatives announced plans last week to expand facility headquarters, improve the entrance and apply for a conservation program at its annual community meeting at the Holiday Inn Express in La Plata.

The facility, on the southern tip of the Cedar Neck Point peninsula in Welcome, covers 1,600 acres and supports the U.S. Department of Defense and other federal research programs by providing multifunctional test ranges.

Testing at the facility includes mortar, rocket, howitzer, laser and static firing tests, and electronics testing and live firing, said Blossom Point manager Jack Kaiser.

The Naval Research Laboratory operates as a tenant on the facility, managing and tracking naval satellites, according to NRL’s website.

The headquarters will expand by 2,390 square feet to accommodate a conference room, offices and storage space, connecting to the existing building in an L-shape, Kaiser said. The project is estimated to cost $600,000.

The improvements to the entrance include a new gate, cameras and a voice call box for customers who have made an appointment or use the government ID badging system. The project is estimated to cost $415,000.

In fiscal 2012, Blossom Point’s economic impact included $935,000 from payroll and benefits, contracts, supplies and equipment, and utilities. The figure does not include customer expenditures.

Blossom Point benefits from a low customer rate, $2,000 per day, compared to $20,000 at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Kaiser said.

Research projects at the facility have a “small proof of concept,” Kaiser said, meaning research projects are at a smaller scale and require fewer measures to prove a product’s feasibility. This enables the facility to have a lower charging rate, Kaiser said.

Blossom Point is planning to apply this fiscal year for the Army Compatible Use Buffer program, which aims to keep land uses adjacent to U.S. Army facilities compatible by preserving land close to the facilities, Kaiser said.

Nationwide, there at least 28 ACUB projects that have preserved 120,600 acres of buffer lands, Kaiser said. Partnerships among the Army, conservation groups and other entities have contributed $169 million to preserve lands to make land uses compatible with Army facilities.

A 1,900-acre wildlife management area buffers the facility to the north, Blossom Point spokesman James LaPaglia said.

The facility has been around since 1942, when the National Bureau of Standards leased land from the Catholic Church for fuze and ordnance testing. A notable World War II munition, a proximity fuze, was tested at the facility, Kaiser said.

More recently, Blossom Point tested a mine-clearing device that soldiers can roll across a line of mines to explode and disarm the mines, Kaiser said.

In recent years, Blossom Point has been trying to get more involved with the community, joining the Charles County Chamber of Commerce and the Business Alliance of Charles County, and networking with the community about the facility’s operations, LaPaglia said.

Del. Sally Y. Jameson (D-Charles) commended Blossom Point for being engaged with the community and informing residents of its operations and plans.

“Their involvement is good for the community and good for the facility,” Jameson said.

Kaiser emphasized Blossom Point’s role as a good neighbor and its services during reasonable times to aid the nation’s military.

“You hear us, but we try to be good neighbors,” Kaiser said. “We keep our hours from 8 a.m to 4 p.m.”

Residents at the meeting agreed.

“Occasionally, you’ll hear a big boom; otherwise, it’s not that bad,” said Judy Tippett, a Welcome resident.

“I very seldom hear it,” said Welcome resident Alton Bowie, Tippett’s brother.

“Of course, you are getting old,” Tippett joked.

Kaiser said Blossom Point’s Joint Land Use Study with Charles County was approved by county commissioners in April.

The land use study included six recommendations that established a quadrilateral area surrounding Blossom Point and its vicinity called a Military Review Area. It enables the county government and Blossom Point to review development applications within the area to ensure they do not encroach or affect the operations at Blossom Point. The study also updates real estate disclosures to inform home purchasers of Blossom Point’s proximity.

Blossom Point also participates in the Military Munitions Response Program, which addresses potential safety, health and environmental impacts of past munition firings.

Kaiser said teams have studied firings in the Nanjemoy Creek and the Potomac River south and east of Blossom Point. Next, researchers will compile a feasibility study to determine potential response scenarios to remove munitions from the water. The study is due in January 2014, but is expected to be completed before then, Kaiser said.

Munitions were fired into the water up to 1979, Kaiser said, but that is no longer the case.

Blossom Point also hosts an annual deer harvest to keep the deer population at appropriate levels. The next one is Dec. 8, with sign-ups due Oct. 15. To learn more about the Blossom Point Research Facility or to request information about the deer hunt, call James LaPaglia at 301-394-3363 or email james.w.lapaglia.civ@mail.mil.

pwarner@somdnews.com

To learn more

To view the Blossom Point Joint Land Use Study, search BoardDocs in the county commissioners’ section of the county website at www.charlescountymd.gov and look under the April 10 meeting for Blossom Point Joint Land Use Study.

To learn more about the Blossom Point Research Facility or to request information about the Dec. 8 deer hunt, call James LaPaglia at 301-394-3363 or email james.w.lapaglia.civ@mail.mil.

Requests to be considered for the deer hunt must be postmarked by Oct. 15 and include the person’s name, home address, work and home phone numbers, hunting license number and shooter qualification number. People interested in the deer hunt can send a card to USAG Blossom Point Manager, 15000 Blossom Point Road, Attn: Jack Kaiser, Welcome, MD 20693.

Participants in the deer hunt will be chosen through a lottery Oct. 20. The hunt has a $20 fee, payable by check only.