A petition is circulating around parts of St. Mary’s County calling for maintenance to a creek in Avenue, and its final destination will be to federal officials.
“One of the things that make St. Mary’s special is the number of people, the number of opportunities to do things by water,” Liz Curtz, president of Friends of St. Clement’s Bay, said. “If you can’t count on being able to find the marker coming home at night, it makes it less appealing. We think it’s really something that needs to be corrected.”
The 60-foot-wide entrance channel of St. Patrick Creek is shallow and narrow, making it difficult for boats to come in and out. Channel markers with lights were placed to make navigation easier, but they were replaced by buoys that are unsteady and pushed around by the tide and wind.
“The creek hasn’t been dredged in 35 years,” Mark Rabush, an owner of Colton’s Point Marina, said. “We joke about it, but it literally takes an act of Congress to dredge a creek.”
Rabush said they were told by the U.S. Coast Guard, engineers and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources that there was no money to fix it. A survey from DNR showed some locations in the creek are 4 feet deep instead of the recommended 7 feet.
Rabush said the solution would be to pump the excess sand out of the creek and into different locations within a mile and a half. However, the equipment alone, which he compared to a vacuum or shop vac, would cost $100,000.
After collecting signatures, members of Friends of St. Clement’s Bay, watermen and boat users plan to send the petition to Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) the Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“We really love being able to go places by water,” Curtz said.
She added she often sees people not from the area trying to enter through the creek.
“Not having a reliable channel is really, it’s bad for local economy,” she said. Curtz added it could hurt seafood businesses and property values in the community.
Curtz said the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers are responsible. “When they write out a small local community, they’re really marginalizing a piece of the community that adds a lot,” she said.
The Friends of St. Clement’s Bay president said the group wants at least 100 signatures for the petition before Thanksgiving.
“We would like to have a conversation, we would like for them to be aware the extent of … the problem for us” she said. “And certainly, we would like the permanent markers back for next season.”
For more information on the creek, visit www.friendsofstclementsbay.org.