Cecil County Exec Pushes Face-Saving Plan to Justify Boat Ramp Closing; US Corps Denies Support; Public Hearing in Cecilton
[With CECIL TIMES Video]
The Cecil County Executive is trying to come up with a face-saving plan to justify her proposal to abandon a free state/federal lease of an Earleville boat ramp and waterfront park– because the parks director doesn’t want to spend $5,000 a year in lawn mowing costs– by claiming that the federal government wants to build a breakwater and deposit new dredge spoils at a controversial dumpsite. But the federal agency in charge says it has no interest in such a plan.
A public meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, 10/13/15, at 6 pm at the Parklands housing complex in Cecilton, adjacent to the public library, on the county’s planned abandonment of the Stemmers Run boat ramp in Earleville, at the end of Pond Neck Road. The county has a free sub-lease from the state Department of Natural Resources, which in turn leases the waterfront site for free from the US Army Corps of Engineers. The public meeting has been quietly disclosed, via multiple and contradictory signs posted at the boat ramp and waterfront park, as well as a county website posting just a few days ago.
The county administration told the County Council recently of its plans to abandon the Stemmer’s Run boat ramp—which is one of only three county public boat launch facilities and the only site that permits launches into deep water, at the intersection of the Elk River and the Chesapeake Bay—because Clyde VanDyke, the county’s Parks Director, doesn’t want to spend $5,000 a year in costs to mow adjoining grassy areas “all the way down there” in the rural area that is 23 miles from the county administration building in Elkton. His comments specifying the small $5,000 cost were witnessed by County Council President Robert Hodge (R-5) and members of the press after a recent Council worksession. [ SEE previous CECIL TIMES report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2015/09/cecil-county-exec-wants-to-abandon-earleville-boat-ramp-to-save-5k-fate-of-park-adjacent-to-us-dump-uncertain/ ]
There has been a public outpouring of citizen objections to the proposal, according to public comments on social media and comments and messages to Cecil Times. Some citizens have shared with Cecil Times their emailed objections to County Executive Tari Moore as well as Moore’s responses, in which she defended Van Dyke’s proposal and challenged the documented media accounts of the mowing cost objections of her appointed parks chief.
After the citizen outcry, the county administration has been scrambling to justify VanDyke’s proposal—while privately assuring County Council members that the closing will not actually proceed. Now, according to sources and federal officials, the county administration has come up with a dubious face-saving explanation that will apparently be put forward at the Tuesday meeting.
The purported justification asserts that state and federal officials really want to create a “breakwater” off the existing boat ramp and waterfront park and that the US Army Corps of Engineers would dredge about 2,500 cubic yards of spoil material and add it to the controversial Pearce Creek dredge spoil dump site adjacent to the boat ramp. The breakwater proposal is alleged to benefit the boat ramp facility by preventing soil and ice from accumulating and damaging the facility and impeding boat launch activities in the future.
However, Cecil Times has learned that the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) only suggested the concept 15 years ago, has not revisited the suggestion in the interim, currently has no plans to pursue the idea and does not deem it worthy of action or fiscal support. No current cost estimates, or the practical value of the idea, were available.
And most importantly, officials of the US Army Corps of Engineers—which actually owns the Stemmers Run boat ramp and the adjoining Pearce Creek dumpsite—say they have no interest in the breakwater, dredging and dumping concept being advanced by some county officials.
“That was never a Corps plan; it was an old DNR idea,” observed Tim Kelly, the US Army Corps of Engineers project manager for the C&D Canal and area dredge spoil issues. Kelly has been the key Corps official in discussions with the county and the town of Cecilton on an agreement to build a clean water pipeline from the town of Cecilton to serve Earleville residents whose water wells were polluted by the Corps dredge spoil dump near the boat ramp.
“We wouldn’t build it,” Kelly said of the breakwater proposal. “It doesn’t fit into our mission.” He added that the Corps has no need for or justification for a proposed “breakwater” in the area.
So the latest ostensible excuse for the Moore administration’s proposed abandonment of the Stemmer’s Run boat ramp seems to fade away.
If you want to get a panoramic view of just what the Stemmers Run boat ramp looks like—including its unique fenced-in center pier that allows wheelchair-bound fishermen to have a safe and enjoyable fishing experience—as well as a small beachfront area, watch our CECIL TIMES video here but be advised that it was a windy day and the audio is full of loud wind noises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRhWmjPwadc