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Alden Colvocoresses, 88; Would-Be Owner Of Island in Potomac

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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Alden P. Colvocoresses, 88, a decorated Army colonel and U.S. Geological Survey mapmaker who unsuccessfully challenged the federal government for ownership of a duck-hunting island in the Potomac River, died March 27 at Inova Fairfax Hospital after a stroke.

Dr. Colvocoresses, known by many as Colvo, served in the Army Corps of Engineers from 1941 to 1968. During World War II, he received two Silver Stars, one for capturing and destroying a German Mark IV tank in Tunisia and another for escaping from Italian captors in North Africa.

He also served in the Korean War and retired after playing a large role in mapping operations during the Vietnam War. His other decorations included the Bronze Star Medal and two Purple Hearts.

He spent the rest of his career working for the U.S. Geological Survey's national mapping division, retiring in 1990. He was a research cartographer on the Landsat satellite program and received two patents for models of remote sensing systems. He also discovered a reef in the Indian Ocean that was subsequently named for him.

Dr. Colvocoresses's interest in duck hunting and bass fishing led him to an unnamed 3.7-acre island in the Potomac just south of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. From his reading of USGS maps, he thought "Colvo's Island" was outside National Park Service wildlife refuge boundaries.

After he was spotted shooting from the island in the mid-1980s, he fought a long battle with the Park Service over ownership. He filed a claim for the island in the Fairfax County assessor's office and began paying taxes on the land, which was largely overrun with water during heavy rains.

But an old USGS map was shown to be wrong in not noting the Park Service's ownership of the island when it acquired Dyke Marsh, a wetlands area, decades earlier.

In 1990, a U.S. District judge fined Dr. Colvocoresses $100 for carrying a firearm in national parkland.

Alden Partridge Colvocoresses was a native of Humboldt, Ariz., and a 1941 mining engineering graduate of the University of Arizona.

During his military career, he received master's degrees in geology and civil engineering and a doctorate in geodetic sciences from Ohio State University.

He was a recipient of the Interior Department's Distinguished Service Award and was a former president of the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. He also was a former president of Fairfax Bassbusters, a fishing group now called Fairfax Bass.

He was a Fairfax resident before moving to Falcons Landing, a retirement community in Sterling, about a decade ago.

His marriage to June Caldwell Colvocoresses ended in divorce. His second wife, Katherine Rose Colvocoresses, whom he married in 1949, died in 1974.

Survivors include a daughter from his first marriage, Colette Wales of Canterbury, England; three children from his second marriage, Jim Colvocoresses of Little Torch Key, Fla., Janet Clampitt of Sterling and Judy Brescia of Lovettsville; nine grandchildren; and a great-grandson.


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