Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

May 13, 2014

Plan for Potomac requires responsible action

I read with interest an email correspondence and subsequent newspaper advertisement regarding the suggested “Potomac Riverside Park and Recreational Area” being advanced by local businessman George Merling. (“Local businessman’s plan to develop along river gets complicated,” May 5 Times-News, Page 1A)
I applaud Mr. Merling for thinking creatively in how to leverage current assets in ways previously not considered. 
While I have not supported the removal of the Blue Bridge Dam, I am on record supporting efforts to more effectively utilize the North Branch of the Potomac above the dam — so I was encouraged to see a motivated businessman wishing to take on this effort. 
The proposal as it currently exists is complex and full of challenges — all of which I believe are worth tackling. The first pertains to the issue of illegal trespass. 
The land which Mr. Merling wishes to develop is not his own. As such, it is first and foremost the responsibility of all who wish to see this project to fruition to seek lawful permission to encroach on federal land. 
The second challenge pertains to the actual construction of access to the river. I have now twice visited Mr. Merling’s proposed kayak launch — once in the late afternoon of May 10 and again late morning on May 11. 
On each of my visits, more than half of the steps approaching the top of the levy were loose, and on my second visit, six of the steps became fully dislodged from their placement in the hill. As I reached the top of the levy, I observed a long wooden ramp, slick with rain, serving as the intended access to the Potomac River. 
The angled pitch of the ramp is far too steep to serve as a public access point (there should be no more than one inch of rise for each foot of run on the ramp). While there are strips of wood that serve as treads along the ramp, they simply were inadequate to prevent slipping as I descended the ramp to the waterway. 

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