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Mt. Umunhum Radar Tower Declared Historic Landmark

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – A tower that made defensive contributions during the Cold War was added to the Santa Clara County Heritage Resource Inventory under a unanimous vote by the county's Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

The Mt. Umunhum Radar Tower in the southern part of the county was associated with the former Almaden Air Force Station, which was part of a regional defense network during the Cold War.

The board approved adding the tower to the inventory under a recommendation from the county's Historical Heritage Commission and prevents the site from getting torn down.

The tower was part of the air force station and opened in 1962, but closed in 1980 because of budget cuts.

The property was acquired by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District in 1986 and is part of the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve.

The tower may be qualified to become a landmark because it is more than 50 years old, has "historical integrity" and has associations with the Cold War, according to county officials.

The tower housed radar that was designed to help locate and respond to any possible Soviet air attacks during the Cold War, county officials said.

In the past five years, the district finished cleaning up hazardous materials from the military operations inside the tower and formed the Umunhum Conservancy, which has raised money to help preserve the site, county officials said.

"You can't appreciate how massive the tower is until you're right up against it," Supervisor Ken Yeager said.

Many residents who grew up in the county remember the "captivating" tower from the Santa Clara Valley floor, Yeager said.

"When we look at the Santa Cruz Mountains, our eyes are drawn to the radar tower—that is why almost everyone in the county can identify Mt.  Umunhum," Supervisor Cindy Chavez said in a statement.

"We've also learned that the mountaintop itself is sacred to Native Americans as a creation site and the mountaintop deserves this historic status," Chavez said.

© Copyright 2016 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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