Volume XI, Issue 37 ~ September 11-17, 2003

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Dock of the Bay

Gambling on Gambling: Change is a Sure Bet
Slots legislation would revamp Rosecroft Raceway

photo by James Clemenko
Rosecroft CEO Tom Chuckas discusses changes to the race track compound as sulky drivers take their horses out for training.

Where will all your quarters, dimes and nickels go?

If gambling legislation is passed by the Maryland General Assembly, then Rosecroft Raceway will be transformed from a homegrown harness racing track to a metropolitan gambling destination for players of slots or video lottery.

“We want to create a program where racing and gambling complement each other,” said Tom Chuckas, CEO of Rosecroft Raceway at a visit this week by the Ways and Means Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates. “Rosecroft will become a location destination for entertainment, racing, gambling, dining, weddings, conferences, lodging and a multi-level parking garage.”

Today’s Rosecroft fits snugly into a little valley surrounded by neighborhoods and old farms in Fort Washington, just outside of Oxon Hill. Rosecroft, our state’s only harness-racing track, is less than an hour’s drive from your home in Chesapeake Country.

A visit to Rosecroft will bring you face-to-face with a 54-year-old clubhouse that looks more like an old-style hotel or theater than a race track. You don’t smell horses, sweat or leather. A candy-striper motif plays across the exterior, giving a warm, comfortable feeling that all is well.

Inside, the clubhouse lives up to the facade. It’s a clean facility whether you go upstairs for dining or downstairs for simulcasts and entry to the grandstand. Both are but pieces of the larger campus.

The 125-acre compound that is Rosecroft also includes a paddock, stables, barns, parking and a five-eighths of a mile track.

That track is the one constant in the entire gambling equation.

“We have one of the best harness racing tracks in the country. No major improvements are needed,” said Mary Manney, director of operations for Rosecroft Raceway.

However, the rest of the campus will change.

One section of the current parking lot will become part of the new clubhouse and grandstand, expanding beyond the existing boundaries. The existing facility would be demolished for a new, taller, two-tiered complex. The paddock would be moved to the side of the track next to the barns. Another section of the parking lot would become a four- to six-level parking garage.

That garage will be needed for all the guests the track anticipates coming for entertainment and growth. Growth, of course, means revenue, revenue from slot machines.

“This is a unique design to maximize the effort of the local community and to integrate racing and gambling,” said Jeff Smith, president and CEO of Centaur Inc., the company hoping to buy Rosecroft and profit from gambling at the site. “Seven hundred million dollars in economic benefit could grow to one to two billion dollars.”

The structural modifications would ready the half-century-old complex to house 3,500 video lottery terminals. Simulcast wagering would be expanded with more televisions covering more race tracks around the country.

According to Smith, name-brand food companies would be enticed to lease space in the upper tier of the clubhouse. The design, just a proposal at the moment, indicates the scope of plans for the raceway. These plans would require an investment of $250 million for construction, which does not include the development of the hotel.

Neither does that figure cover the construction costs for improvements that would have to be made to accommodate throngs of people making pilgrimages to the new destination.

So where will your quarters, dimes and nickels go? A new gambling facility in nearby Prince Georges County. When the slots are in, you can play to retrieve your taxes.
— James Clemenko

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Rub a Wet Dog
Canines make a splash at Anne Arundel SPCA’s dog wash

Dog washes are less common than car washes for raising funds for a good cause, but they’re more lively.

“We like to put a focus on finding activities that are fun for our volunteers, as well as way to get us out to interact with the community,” said John Robertson. The executive director of SPCA of Anne Arundel County came to Saturday’s splash down event clad in his bathing suit and stepped into a kiddie-sized swimming pool to help with the operation.

photo by M.L. Faunce
A wet dachshund is as slippery as a greased pig, which explains why little Rose needed three bathers and one watcher.
Also getting wet was a brigade of some 25 volunteers plus a Girl Scout troop. Coordinator of volunteers Christina Lopez gave a crash course in dog washing before dividing the volunteers into “people who would wash, people who would dry and those who would brush and comb out,” the furry clients.

“Lather the dog well, giving them a nice massage,” she explained. “Avoid the head; their face will be washed later. And rinse, rinse, rinse, because soap stays on. Then send them to the drying station and rub them nice and dry.”

Then Lopez offered her enthusiastic volunteers one last word of caution: “Make friends with the dog before you spray them down: one holder, one washer, one scrubber; if a big dog, four. We don’t want you getting bitten.”

Washing stations were set up and hoses ready when, at the stroke of noon, dogs and owners began appearing on foot and by van and by station wagon.

Bay Weekly’s contributing canine, dachshund Rose, nosed her way to the front of the line and landed the number-one slot for a refreshing bath. No less than the director himself climbed into the pool to help with the fleet-footed doxie, lathered up and slick as a greased pig. Volunteers Georgia Conroy of Crofton and Darlene Dupont of Bowie scrubbed and held, then rubbed her dry.

A steady wave of wagging tails followed. Charley, a seven-month-old shepherd, took her first bath in stride. Proud owner Paula Lucas of Eastport beamed.

Cartouch, a seven-and-a-half-year-old golden retriever, pranced into the arms of his washers, who gave him a kingly welcome and caressed his furry mane. Owner Joel Thomas of Annapolis approved while waiting in line with his other dogs, diminutive dachshunds, Ethel and Lucy, who he called his “dynamic duo.”

It wasn’t just a day for dachshunds. A 120-pound Newfoundland named Gomez arrived covered in mud from a romp at Quiet Waters Park dog beach. “We’ll have to rethink the size issue,” said Lopez after four handlers bathed the big boy for only $10. Dogs under 80 pounds cost only $5, with nail clipping an extra $5. Breeds of all shapes, colors and sizes from Chihuahuas up, some 96 dogs in all, enjoyed baths at the first annual SPCA wash.

“This is exactly what we’re looking for,” announced Robertson amid all the scrubbing and rubbing.

Success is measured in many ways, and Robertson credits Lopez with programs that help bring in volunteers. Numbers are close to an all-time high, some 230 volunteers in her two years as coordinator. Half are animal socializers who come to the shelter to walk dogs or take them jogging on the nature trails. Others, like Jean McKenzie of Annapolis, come to play with and hold the cats. Affection keeps these animals’ "family mentality," as Robertson calls it.

One hundred volunteers help with everything from administrative chores to staffing event-registration and sales tables to bathing resident dogs once a month.

“The volunteers are having fun,” Robertson said. “The owners are happy and the dogs are having a great time. Next summer we’ll do more than one, maybe one a month.”

Want to volunteer? 410/268-4388 x 121.

— M.L. Faunce

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Take an Audio Tour of Southern Anne
Arundel County
Drive south with new travelogue CD and map

South of Annapolis, across a wide river, lies a stretch of rolling farmland known locally as South County.

So begins Roots & Tides, a new travelogue CD about Southern Anne Arundel County. The tour — the first for Maryland’s 12 designated Heritage Areas — was launched this month with fanfare befitting the lofty hopes of its makers. The Annapolis, London Town and South County Heritage Area says its goals are to boost this still-rural part of the county as a tourism destination, stimulating the local small-business economy and preserving the area’s rich history.

“It may at first glance seem like another bit of rural America being turned into suburbs,” wrote project author Joel McCord, former Anne Arundel editor at The Baltimore Sun. “But if you get off the main roads you’ll find a land steeped in history and inextricably linked to the Chesapeake Bay.” The 85-minute travelogue takes listeners from the colonial tobacco port of London Town past old tobacco farms and 18th century mansions through the picturesque boat building and watermen’s villages of Galesville, Shady Side and Deale.

To understand South County, narrator McCord declares, you have to understand two things: tobacco and water. Following those themes, the tour tells stories of oysters “dinner-plate-size thick on the bottom of the Bay,” of king tobacco and steamboats arriving to bring villages to life three times a week.

Helping tell the story are historians, educators, preservationists, archeologists, musicians, an Episcopal pastor and a horsewoman. You’ll hear, too, the voices of local residents, like Jack Smith and Laurence and Bobby Hartge of Galesville; Pete Nutwell of Deale; Rever Sellman and Glorious and Howard Shenton of Shady Side; and Leonard Blackshear of Annapolis. Their ancestors’ and own lives mirror the CD’s promise of a people “rooted to the soil, and living by the rise and fall of the tides of the Chesapeake.”

Not familiar with those local legends? You’ll be drawn in by their stories and remembrances — and the moving spirituals by Jim Ballard, the toe-tapping song, South County Line, written and sung by Savannah Strong for the tour, as well as Down South County by Janey Meneely and South County Stroll, an instrumental by Tim Finch.

“There was a great oral tradition here, the heritage passed on by word of mouth,” said County Executive Janet Owens, herself born and raised in South County. “This travelogue is an important product to preserve our heritage and promote tourism in a careful way.”

You can listen to Roots and Tide in your car as you drive county roads, on your boat or in your living room. The audio travelogue is more background history than point-to-point itinerary.

The map suggests three different driving routes based on the stories told on the CD and the listed heritage sites. Begin your tour at Historic London Town and Gardens in Edgewater, the northernmost point. Continue with the Muddy Creek Tour past thoroughbred farms and the 350-year-old watermen’s village of Galesville. Keep driving with the Herrington Tour, visiting the Shady Side Peninsula and Captain Salem Avery House Museum, the charter boat fleets at Deale and the re-creation of a historic village at Herrington Harbour North Marina.

CD $12; map free at the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference & Visitors Bureau of West Street; Historic Annapolis Foundation’s William Paca House or Museum Store on Main Street; Historic London Town & Gardens in Edgewater; the Galesville Heritage Museum; the Southern Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce in Churchton; and Captain Salem Avery House Museum in Shady Side.

— M.L. Faunce

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Cove Point Settles Down to Shipping as Usual
With the arrival of tankers, Chesapeake Bay is back in the LNG business

Two months after Dominion began receiving liquefied natural gas at its the offshore docks at Cove Point, something akin to a regular schedule of ships has begun with the arrival of a third giant container ship.

No accidents, no terrorist attacks, not even any tickets to errant boaters.

Once a highly favored fishing spot, recreational and commercial fishing boats and boaters in general are banned from coming within 500 yards of the gas docks when the large LNG ships are unloading.

Some have been warned back. “Boaters have been cooperative once they’ve been alerted,” says Dan Donovan, spokesman for Dominion. “Many don’t know about the restrictions yet.”

The restrictions are still a point of contention with boaters. Charter captains and recreational anglers are fighting the closing of the docks, charging that the LNG operation keeps them out of one of the richest fishing grounds in the Bay. The Coast Guard promises to reconsider distance limits by next month.

Meanwhile, Dominion says it’s received a third shipment of foreign LNG. Its first load, a smaller, warm-up shipment, arrived in July [Dock of the Bay: Vol. XI, No. 31: July 31].

The most recent ship, the British Trader, arrived Sept. 2 with 80 million cubic meters of LNG from Trinidad and Tobago.

A 914-foot long British Petroleum Energy ship, the Berge Boston, docked at Cove Point on Aug. 21. The ship brought about 130,000 cubic meters of LNG.

Once piped ashore, the LNG is vaporized into billions of cubic feet of natural gas and stored in the large, white tanks visible above the treeline. There it waits until it’s sent up the pipeline for distribution.

Dominion’s 87-mile pipeline connects with three major interstate pipelines in northern Virginia: Dominion Transmission, Columbia Gas, and Transcontinental Gas. The gas eventually makes its way to major Mid-Atlantic markets.

Dominion won Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval to reopen for commercial cargo on Aug. 18, nearly a month after the commissioning load came in. The company now hopes to receive one ship every 10 days, then up to one every four days when demand becomes greater in the Northeast during winter.

— John L. Guerra

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Way Downstream…

In Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is taking on a powerful adversary: Philip Morris. The foundation says that Virginia should not continue letting Philip Morris annually pour 138,000 pounds of Bay-choking nitrogen into the James River from its cigarette factory in Chesterfield County …

Off Cape Cod, Walter Cronkite is backing off — sort of — his opposition to the offshore wind farm near his home at Martha’s Vineyard. The windfarm is proposed by the same company trying to put wind turbines in the lower Chesapeake Bay. Cronkite appeared in television ads opposing the Cape wind farm but now has softened his approach to say he wants a full review of the plan …

In the Congo, there’s some new music: a CD by a group of Pygmies singing about being threatened with extinction. The group, called Ndima, uses traditional instruments such as animal horns and skin-covered drums to sing about logging companies destroying their jungle …

Our Creature Feature is a tale of snails and naked partyers in Banff National Park in Alberta. Scientists are working to restore the tiny Banff Springs snail, whose entire population had plunged to 3,000.

A key spot for their recovery is a hot spring called Cave and Basin, which people are told to avoid. But a researcher told Reuters of a devastating incident in which 10 skinnydippers killed many of the rare snails. They were fined $1,000 each.

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Last updated September 11, 2003 @ 1:42am