To move forward with the great news reported in the Capital's recent series, "Shifting Tides," I'm happy to tell you about the West and Rhode Riverkeeper's new partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to dramatically expand Anne Arundel County's access to our waterways.
Franklin Point State Park was saved from development by a group of gallant citizens nearly 20 years ago. But because of budget and staff capacity constraints, it’s been locked behind a gate ever since. This 477-acre tract is an astonishing jewel – pristine tidal marsh opening up onto the Chesapeake Bay on the Shady Side peninsula, forest and marshes teeming with more than 100 species of birds, from the American bald eagle to the endangered black rail – a birder’s paradise.
And for paddlers, a soft kayak, stand-up paddleboard and canoe launch will provide access to Deep Creek and a winding channel through the marsh to the open Chesapeake Bay. Eventually, miles of trails will provide opportunities for exploration by boot and bike.
This Saturday, dozens of volunteers will be there to clean up the site of what will become a passive day use area. Access will be through a system used successfully at nearby Jack Creek Park – another area the Riverkeeper was instrumental in opening to the public. You’ll call or log on to a web site to get the current combination to the padlock on the gate and let yourself in and out.
With the urging and guidance of the Anne Arundel Water Access Committee, the the Riverkeeper organization signed on as the de facto “Friends of Franklin Point State Park.” With the Riverkeeper’s support established, the DNR, under the leadership of Steve McCoy, head ranger at Sandy Point State Park, has been proactive in demolishing old structures on the site and cutting brush to make room for parking and people.
Riverkeeper volunteer rangers will provide regular patrols to monitor the park against litter and other unwelcome activities. We’ll also conduct programs and events to introduce the public the park’s natural assets.
We’ve been proactive in meeting with neighbors and hearing their concerns. As one nearby long-time resident said, “We welcome visitors – but when you open an area to use, you also open it to abuse.” Riverkeeper volunteers will serve as the park’s eyes and ears, while the Natural Resources Police will provide effective enforcement. Our goal is to open this astonishing new recreational opportunity to the citizens of Anne Arundel County with a minimal negative impact on the quality of life of our neighbors.
Members of that same citizens group that won that battle against developers 20 years ago are still active as Riverkeeper volunteers. They’re seeing their vision coming true, thanks to this new partnership between DNR and the West and Rhode Riverkeeper.
I’m proud to have served as a catalyst for this new project, and as an avid bird-watcher, fisherman and paddler, I can’t wait to launch one of the vessels in my large fleet of small boats and explore this pristine site. I hope to see you out there.
The park will open in August, as soon as the Park Service has ironed out the entry system. Meanwhile, if you’d like to join our stalwart band of volunteers, or if you’d like a personally conducted tour – call me at 410-867-7171 or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can make a secure donation on line by clicking here.
See you out there!
-- Jeff Holland, West & Rhode Riverkeeper