Cecil County Exec Wants to Abandon Earleville Boat Ramp to Save $5K; Fate of Park Adjacent to US Dump Uncertain

September 11, 2015

Cecil County government wants to abandon the Stemmers Run boat ramp and waterfront park in Earleville to save $5,000 a year in maintenance costs and because the county parks director dislikes having to send mowers and staff to the rural area. The boat ramp is operated under a free lease from the state and federal governments and if the county fails to renew the lease in December, those agencies won’t continue the facility, county officials said.

The facility, located on 22 acres of land adjacent to a state Department of Natural Resources-operated Wildlife Management Area and the US Army Corps of Engineers Pearce Creek dredging spoil dumpsite, features two boat ramps, a pier, a large parking area, and grassy areas at the waterfront setting on the Elk River at the entrance to the upper Chesapeake Bay. Located at the end of Pond Neck Road, the site is popular with local joggers, bike riders, dog-walkers, and picnic-ers as well as boaters, who have to pay a $20 annual fee for a county permit to use boat trailers to launch their watercraft.

The site is the only county recreational facility of any size south of the C&D Canal, other than a half-acre playground in Chesapeake City and a small metal boat launch on the Cecil/Kent county border on the Sassafras River. The county has one other two-ramp boat launch facility at Elk River Park in Elkton.

County Parks Director Clyde VanDyke initially told the County Council shutting down the Stemmers Run site would save the county $10,000 a year. But under reporters’ questioning after the meeting, VanDyke admitted that figure applied to past years when the site received weekly attention, such as mowing, but now the county only visits twice a month and the maintenance costs are actually $5,000 a year.

VanDyke emphasized that he had problems with having to send county workers and mowers “all the way down there” and it was inconvenient and time-consuming to do so. The site is located about 23 miles from the County Administration building in Elkton and most of the travel is on busy Route 213.

VanDyke actively campaigned to win county approval for a regional park in the northwestern area of the county at Calvert, a project that is projected to cost $7.1 million, including allocations of $2.58 million in last year’s county Capital Budget, $2.18 million in the current county budget, and an expected $2.18 million in the upcoming Fiscal 2017 capital budget. VanDyke maintained that the Calvert park would attract “sports tourism” to its multiple playing fields and that would bring out-of-state residents to visit the area and spend at local businesses.

But VanDyke used that argument in reverse in discussing the plan to abandon the Stemmer’s Run boat ramp, saying that “most” of the permit holders were from out of state so there wouldn’t be much impact on local residents. However, many owners of summer residences in the south county area do pay local property taxes on their homes even if their drivers’ license lists an out of state primary residence when they apply for the boat ramp permit.

Asked why the county administration wanted to abandon such a valuable resource as the Stemmer’s Run facility when the $5,000 a year cost is relatively small and mostly offset by about $8,000 in permit fees paid by boaters, Al Wein, the county director of administration, replied, “Nothing is a tiny amount of money anymore.”

While County Executive Tari Moore is worried about spending $5,000 to maintain the Stemmer’s Run park facility, she apparently didn’t have such concerns when she recently gave a $5,000 grant to the Chesapeake Feline Association for its programs to trap/neuter/release feral (wild) cats. The money was allocated out of “impact aid” to the county from fees paid by the Hollywood Casino in Perryville. Moore alone decides who gets those grants, without approval or advance consultation from the County Council.

The cat group was awarded the grant even before it had zoning approval from the Board of Appeals to operate a cat facility it built near North East. A number of nearby residents complained that the group built the facility in a residential area before it had zoning approval and worried about noise and odors. The appeals panel approved the use of the site on a year’s trial basis.

Wein said the county would hold a public hearing to hear citizens’ views on the proposed abandonment of the Stemmer’s Run facility. Several County Council members said they wanted to make sure area residents were informed in advance of a hearing and suggested posting a notice at the site.

Wein said the county had already told state and federal officials that the county may not renew its lease when it expires in mid-December and those agencies responded they would not keep the facility open without county involvement.

That raises some concerns among local residents, who have fought for years over the adjoining Corps shipping channel dredge spoil dumpsite that an independent federal study concluded was responsible for polluting area drinking water wells. Under a state water quality permit, dumping cannot be resumed until a protective liner is installed at the existing site and a water pipeline from the town of Cecilton is constructed to serve area homes affected by the dump. The Maryland Port Administration is paying the cost of the waterline.

The Corps is the owner of the boat ramp area and has leased it to the state DNR, which in turn leased it to the county. If the Corps resumes full ownership of the ramp site, some local residents fear, it could eventually be used as part of an expanded Pearce Creek dump

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4 Responses to Cecil County Exec Wants to Abandon Earleville Boat Ramp to Save $5K; Fate of Park Adjacent to US Dump Uncertain

  1. scott on September 11, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    Unbelievable! How is the County going to save Vandyke’s wild ‘out of thin air’ estimate of $10K (oh make that) $5K ? Are they going to lay off a County employee? Pretty sure one employee costs more than $5K. SO the County will still spend the same amount of $ and do less. Typical Government, tripping over dollars to pick up pennies.

    Maybe we should take $5k out of Vandyke’s budget and hire a contractor to cut the grass? Doubt it would cost $5k a year and they would welcome the business not complain. Or maybe we just need a new parks director? He doesn’t even want to keep the popular Elk river park open, closing it at the first snow flake until summer.

    Most Counties would jump to gain water access not walk away from it. How does Vandke know that most users are out of State? The sticker is good for two ramps. Has he done a study or is he just talking out his… again?

  2. Erin Doordan on September 13, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Amazon, Google and a few other large companies now use goats to maintain large properties throughout the world. Goats eat everything from grass and weeds to trash. Goat farmers will lease property and either bring the goats in, or keep the goats fenced in the property. The county could look into leasing the property to goat farmers in an effort to maintain the land. Through the money brought in by boaters, and the lease to the goat farmer, the county may find literally no expences are incurred to keep up appearances!

  3. Harold McCanick on September 14, 2015 at 12:54 am

    Numbers don’t lie. Our executive and council apropriated $9.5 million that grew to $14 million(million!)for a stick and ball park that will cost ???$$$ to maintain– but not $5 thousand to keep a public boat ramp open that generates revenue. Our leaders have lost their collective minds.

    One of our county’s biggest resources is our surrounding waterways. We urinated away a boat load of $ to an out of town bass tournament promoter but can’t keep a public ramp open for our own citizens! SHAKE MY HEAD!

  4. Jeannette H on September 15, 2015 at 9:18 am

    Vandyke can’t or won’t get people or mowers down to the boat ramp is hard to imagine. With the trucks and trailers the county owns, it should be a piece of cake to get mowers down to the park. If employees are not happy going down there, guess what, this is a business like any other and our tax dollars pay their wages. Replace them. There are a lot of people out there looking for work that would be happy to accommodate. All we get are excuses for something that is just as important to the south side community as is the Calvert area park Vandyke has been pushing. Sounds to me that Vandyke’s performance should be reviewed and possibly replaced with someone that has the ability and desire to run his department. Where are you Tari Moore? It would be nice if you actually did your job for once.

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