On a clear day, Chappaquiddick’s Little Neck is all sky, and marshland and grassy dunes. Look out over the glassy expanse of Cape Pogue Bay and you’ll see shellfishermen dredging for scallops and gulls congregating along the sandy shoreline.

But underlying that peaceful scene are an unknown number of unexploded practice bombs, some of which have come to light in recent years as the dunes erode and shorelines shift.

“This area is littered with three-pound practice bombs,” said Chris Kennedy, superintendent of The Trustees of Reservations, late last week at the barrier beach.

For many years, the Trustees have closed the 62-acre property off to the public to protect them from the munitions, which were dropped there as part of target practice during World War II. Now, an effort of the Army Corps of Engineers to remove the ordnances may make it possible to open the property once again.

Trustees of Reservations superintendent Chris Kennedy at removal site. — Mark Lovewell

Since late 2008, at least 602 munitions, in whole or in part, have been found at Cape Pogue, 88 of which contained explosives. The most dangerous practice bombs contain spotting charges, which were designed to detonate upon impact, producing a red smoke to mark where the item landed.

Though locals have nicknamed the munitions debris “Chappaquiddick doorstops,” Army Corps officials say some present a serious explosive hazard. They can cause severe burns, said Carol Ann Charette, project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, at a public hearing on their plans for Cape Pogue last week.

“If anybody picks up these items, it could do significant damage,” she said.

The Army Corps is taking public comment until Dec. 19 on their proposed plan to remove the munitions.

As a result of a feasibility study performed at the site, the Army Corps outlined four options for the site. They’ve chosen the most extensive removal plan as their preferred remedy, and are prepared to go to bid as soon as January. The $3 million project will likely require the removal of all of the vegetation at Little Neck. This means cedars, alders, bayberry shrubs and beach grass will be cut down, likely by a combination of mowers, weed whackers and other mechanical means. Cutting the vegetation away allows for the geophysical surveys that detect the munitions to be performed accurately, Bob Selfridge, a representative of the Army Corps, said at the public hearing. Once a hot spot is identified, the contractors will use shovels to dig three feet below the surface and remove whatever munitions debris is in there.

Army Corps officials told the audience that the subsurface removals would be discrete.

“It’s not massive scalping of the whole subsurface,” Mr. Selfridge said.

When removal is complete, the area will be revegetated and the wetlands restored.

Munitions clearing would open up a large, pristine area.

Mr. Kennedy said the removal may actually improve the property from an ecological point of view. It will allow them to replant the area with native grasses and shrubs, expanding the diversity of the habitat. The project will likely also allow for the reopening of Little Neck to the public. Though it makes up a small portion of the 507-acre wildlife refuge, Little Neck will add variety to the experience of visiting Cape Pogue, Mr. Kennedy said.

Much of the acreage is salt marsh, a sharp contrast to the sandy beach that is prevalent across Cape Pogue, he said.

“If we could get it open, it would be fantastic,” he said.

In the 1940s, Cape Pogue and other parts of the south shore of Martha’s Vineyard were considered desolate and remote. “Little Neck was pretty separate from the rest of the property,” Mr. Kennedy said. “So it was really an ideal location.”

In a phone call this week, Ms. Charette said the area was likely chosen to simulate the conditions of the amphibious invasion at Normandy. Bombs thrown from airplanes during training missions are now lodged in the embankments of Little Neck, right under the surface or a few feet down.

“As the cliff erodes away, it loosens soil and bombs drop out of the cliff base,” Mr. Kennedy explained, as he extended a yellow metal detector over a pile of shells. The instrument began emitting a higher pitch until it was screeching.

“There is most likely a bomb under there,” Mr. Kennedy said.

The original bomb target was located about 100 feet inland of where he stood.

Public access to the site is prohibited, but graffiti sprayed on the face of a boulder there suggests that not everyone has observed that rule.

Small rusted piece dates to wartime days when remote Cape Pogue was used by U.S. military for training exercises. — Mark Lovewell

The highest concentration of the ordnances have been found on land, surrounding the target. “They were hitting the target pretty well,” Mr. Selfridge said.

An even costlier removal project will target ordnances in the bay, a total area of 172 acres of inland water. The town-owned bay is a popular spot for scalloping and clamming. This project is estimated to cost nearly $5 million. Though surveys have revealed fewer munitions in the water than on land, and only three of those found since 2008 contained explosives, the inland water project covers more acreage and requires underwater activity.

Edgartown shellfish constable Paul Bagnall said he didn’t anticipate much impact to the shellfish industry.

“My sense from them is that they will be starting out there earlier by the tail end of scalloping season, as we wrap it up,” he said.

Munitions detected underwater will be dug up with hand tools. The removal of the iron munitions would probably improve the conditions for the eel grass, an important but sensitive aquatic plant. Still, Mr. Bagnall doesn’t expect the Corps to find a lot of munitions in the bay, where robust harvest activity has taken place since World War II. “I am not a munitions expert, but I have an appreciation of how every square inch of Little Neck has been dragged repeatedly,” he said. The Cape Pogue project is part of a larger effort to locate military munitions along the southern side of the Island. The Corps also has active projects at Edgartown’s South Beach and at Tisbury Great Pond. Squibnocket was also used as a target range, as were sites on Nantucket, Cape Cod and Noman’s Land.

Funding has already been allocated for the land-based munitions removal at Cape Pogue, so that project will get going before the inland water portion.

In the meantime, the Corps cautions all visitors to observe the three R’s: recognize that you may have encountered a munition, retreat from the area and report your finding to the proper authorities.

Public comments on the proposed plan can be submitted via email to donna.sharp@amec.com or by mail to Ms. Donna Sharp, AMEC, 9725 Cogdill Road, Knoxville, TN 37830.