Projects Big and Small on the Horizon for New West/Rhode Riverkeeper

After one month on the job, West/Rhode Riverkeeper Jeff Holland said that he has been busy getting up to speed on all of the jobs that fall under the responsibility of the Riverkeeper.

“I’m trying to meet everyone,” he said.

Jeff Holland, the new West/Rhode Riverkeeper.

Jeff Holland, the new West/Rhode Riverkeeper in his office at Discovery Village.

Since he started, he has had to familiarize himself with the issues that are before the 2014 General Assembly. He is working with a coalition of groups to focus on environmental legislation that could be voted on during the 90-day session. He’s also working on grants and projects that the West/Rhode Riverkeeper’s office is involved in.

One of the things he hopes to do for the organization is to bring his public relations experience to the table, helping to get the word out about all of the things that the riverkeeper does.

“Part of the job is educating the public,” Holland said.

Grants and Projects

Holland pulled out a huge watershed map to showcase some of the projects they’re hoping to get off the ground in the next three months. In no particular order, he pointed out a couple of key projects: Franklin Point State Park in Shady Side, Camp Letts in Edgewater, water access points for canoes and kayaks, and remediation and mitigation at the headwaters of Muddy Creek.

Franklin Point is located at the south end of Columbia Beach Road and the easternmost plot of land at the end of Dent Road. In between these two areas is 500 acres of pristine marshland.

At both access points, there are currently gates. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is looking to acquire a $1.5 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Service. With the monies, they will restore the shoreline and prevent further erosion of the peninsula at the end of Columbia Beach Road.

Over on the Dent Road side, near the old abandoned airfield, they will use a portion of the remaining paved area for parking to create a cartop boat launch area. This is part of a program that south county resident Mike Lofton has been working on for several years with the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks, where they try to open up water access points to the public.

Holland said that they will be working on the project for 18 months to two years. He is hopeful that the state will be able to come up with some funding to get an old, abandoned house on the property razed.

“We hope that once it is done, that it can be something that the county can manage, similar to Jack Creek Park, where they keep a gate with a combination lock,” Holland said.

They hope to have volunteers that will do foot patrols and keep litter under control.

Two other water access projects are taking place in Galesville and over near the ballfields on East-West Shady Side Road in Shady Side. In Galesville, Holland said that the access point is behind Wilson Field, the ball fields that Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks recently dedicated to honor Negro League baseball players. Currently, it is the site of an unfortunate decades-old dumping site. Holland said that the county will go in with heavy equipment to remove old tires, appliances and whatever else is back there before volunteers can continue the cleanup by hand.

They have to be careful though, because county archaeologists believe that some of the wells on the property may hold 19th century artifacts. Once the garbage is removed and the artifacts retrieved, they’ll make another water access point for canoes and kayaks.

Over at Camp Letts in Edgewater, they have completed a restoration project that helps to slow the runoff from the horse paddock. They’ll be working there to replant and reforest an area that has been tread on by the horses, creating runoff.

At the headwaters of Muddy Creek, they’re working with Baltimore Gas and Electric to mitigate bank undercutting and erosion along the power line right-of-way.

“That one is a ways from the river, but it is in the watershed,” Holland said.

For 30 days’ work, Holland seems to be busy learning on the job and getting his arms around the group’s projects and initiatives. But he’s also got a busy spring ahead. They’ll be finishing up the 2013 report card, which they’ll reveal at an event this spring. They will also continue the snapshot volunteer activity in the spring and their water quality monitoring over the summer.

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About Mitchelle Stephenson

I've gotta tell Mitchelle! Send your South County news tips, brag on your fab volunteers, talk traffic, police and fire or just say "howdy" to Mitchelle Stephenson, co-founding editor of the South River Source. or reach me in person on mobile: 410-353-4706.


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