Take Me to the Water
Anne Arundel County has the longest Bay shoreline in Maryland at 534 miles, embracing five major rivers and countless creeks and streams. It is home to 40,000 registered boaters. Yet unless you own waterfront property or live in a water-privileged community, you have virtually no access to the Chesapeake or its tributaries.
Last week the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks presented a draft of a new Land Preservation, Parks and Recreation Plan. A number of citizens spoke up for various projects such as indoor tennis facilities and bicycle trails. But the most compelling from my perspective were four or five speakers who noted the shameful lack of public water access.
After the 30-minute presentation at Quiet Waters Park, Parks director Rick Anthony assured me he is committed to the goal of increasing public water access in the very near future.
Over the last two years, he said, he has been working with Mike Lofton, head of the citizen initiative Public Water Access Committee, in identifying specific projects.
Effort is under way to include a two-lane ramp at Fort Smallwood Park in Pasadena, but it is not yet operational.
Beyond money, one of the principal problems in providing public access to the Bay has been the unwillingness of those living near proposed projects to share access, even though the county owns the property being developed.
Lofton explained that initial neighborhood opposition frequently contrasts with these same residents’ final attitude toward the fully developed projects. Neighbors often embrace the completed efforts.
Quiet Waters Park and the B&A Trail are two of the more successful and widely loved Recreation and Parks projects, he said. They are not only praised by the nearby residents but have also increased surrounding property values — though initial fears were much to the contrary.
Anne Arundel County already owns more than 100 parcels of waterfront property, some of them extensive. A few more — such as the 50-acre Spriggs Farm Park on the Magothy River — are under consideration for acquisition. Many of these areas are prime candidates for opening public access to the Chesapeake and its tributaries.
The Public Water Access Committee that has spearheaded this issue is composed of a dozen volunteers who are always looking for additional assistance. While they don’t need donations nor are they big on meetings, Lofton said, they do welcome participation by people interested in assisting with a specific project: www.aacounty.org/RecParks/launch/water_access.cfm.
If you’d like to help champion an area access or want to identify a public holding in your area, Lofton will be happy to fill you in on how to go about it. Countless landlocked Anne Arundel Countians will be forever grateful.