CUMBERLAND — Cumberland Mayor Ray Morriss and the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to seek ownership of the industrial dam beneath the Blue Bridge.
Located beneath the span connecting Cumberland and Ridgeley, West Virginia, the dam was constructed across the North Branch of the Potomac River in 1955 to create slack water used in production by the Kelly-Springfield Tire Co., which closed in the 1980s.
The action item on the consent agenda said the city of Cumberland, “accepts ownership of the Cumberland Dam under the Blue Bridge to allow for the dam to be removed.”
The action approves a letter be sent to the state of Maryland and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asking that ownership be assigned to Cumberland. Ownership of the dam has been disputed for many years with no one wanting to accept ownership. The Maryland Attorney General’s Office studied the matter in 2014 and issued a opinion that the dam belonged to the city.
The city wants ownership so it can permit the dam to be removed to allow a $15 million river park to be constructed at the site. The proposed project would include a moderate whitewater course, docks, viewing area and a riverside trail at the site.
“For us to do the river project, the ownership of the dam is something that has to be determined,” said Morris. “For us to move forward I think it is important that we do this.”
In other news from City Hall, officials said the Jaycees Field off Furnace Street has emerged as the top location under consideration to construct a $450,000 skate park. A group of advocates for the park say the facility could increase tourism and help young people stay out of trouble.
City officials are still debating the site, which is considered a floodplain. However, they feel they may be able to work around the issue.
Councilperson Rock Cioni sits on the Cumberland Parks and Rec Board.
“That location has been identified by the skate board group who have worked conscientiously on this project,” said Cioni after the council meeting. “That seems to be their favorite location. There is a whole thing with the floodplain mitigation and how that could affect any federal dollars that could flow in here. There is the whole thing of meeting federal requirement for something like that.
“There has also been a lot of vandalism there. But one view is: if there is more activity there, will it cut down on vandalism because it looks more alive? I think that it’s a worthwhile viewpoint. The Jaycees are apparently on board to purchase security cameras for the location.”
Cioni said the city is not ready to make a move of selecting the Jaycees Field.
“The City Council is certainly open to the idea of having a skate park but it is not a done deal. There is city engineering and things involved yet so it is not resolved,” Cioni added.