Because we are only now beginning to think of the Cold War in terms of “history” instead of “current events,” many military installations that were decommissioned late in the Cold War have been demolished or are collapsing from neglect. No longer in the forefront of the country’s defense against Soviet long-range bombers, the Nike missile sites once scattered across the national landscape are disappearing. On the over-the-pole
route from the Soviet Union to the U.S., Alaska had seven Nike sites. Of the three sites near Anchorage, Nike Site Bay is all but gone, and Nike Site Point has had its bunkers converted to a municipal cross-country ski center and storage facilities. Nike Site Summit remains largely as it was constructed in 1959, and is one of the most intact Nike sites in the nation. Site Summit is 4,000 feet above sea level on the edge of half-million-acre Chugach State Park, and overlooks Alaska’s largest city. Sixty vertical feet were blasted off the mountaintop and 25,000 cubic yards of rock were hauled away to make room for the facility. Site Summit consists of missile launch facilities, radar facilities, and living accommodations for fifty soldiers. In spite of Site Summit’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places, vandalism and weather have contributed to extensive deterioration of the facility.
The Army is currently preparing an EA (Environmental Assessment) as it considers whether to demolish the facility. The Army’s scoping process generated a large number of letters in support of preservation. A local group called “Friends of Nike Site Summit,” including historic preservationists, recreationists, and veterans, has formed with the goal of opening the site to the public and interpreting its history. The original construction drawings apparently still exist, which would greatly aid any effort to document the site for the Historic American Landscapes Survey. The National Park Service has indicated an interest in managing Site Summit as an Affiliated Park, and the Army has now expressed a willingness to discuss options besides demolition or neglect. The EA is due out in June.
For more information, contact: Ms. Carrie McEnteer, United States Army, at carrie. email@example.com
Ralph Tingey, “Friends of Nike Site Summit,” at ralph. firstname.lastname@example.org
Doug Gasek, Alaska Office of History and Archaeology, at email@example.com