The stream bordering Margaret Smith's ragged backyard has eroded a chunk of her land -- 4 to 5 feet in the 15 years she's lived in Allview in Columbia.
So it came as a wonderful present Monday when a handful of teen-age Maryland Conservation Corps workers muscled away debris that had clogged the Beaver Run stream, causing it to flood and erode after heavy rainstorms.
She and other residents had complained for years that their basements were being flooded and their yards littered by glass, branches and trash that washed ashore after heavy storms. They say their complaints fell on deaf ears at the county Public Works Department.
"Now we're very happy the state's gone through on this," said Bill Amos, president of the Allview-Arrowhead Civic Association.
The neighborhood association turned to Del. Virginia Thomas, D-13A, for help. She wrote numerous letters to the county, urging them to restart a stream cleanup program she helped initiate when she was on the County Council from 1974 to 1982. She turned to Gov. William Donald Schaefer after she got nowhere with the county.
"They're losing their land," she said of the residents. "It's a real serious problem. The county will not put anything into cleaning ,, the stream."
The county Public Works Department said it couldn't remove stream debris in Allview because it tries to give residents equal treatment.
"If you had to do it in Allview, then in all fairness, it would have to be given to the rest of the residents," said Ronald Lepson, assistant director.
Mr. Lepson said the county will come in and help after the residents put out some effort to clean up stream debris themselves.
"The county cannot do all things for all people in all situations," Mr. Lepson said. "There has to be a partnership and an understanding of cooperation."
"In my opinion, the county is responsible because they allowed building developments without adequate storm water protection," Ms. Thomas said.
If stream debris is not removed and flooding and further erosion results, the county eventually might have to pay homeowners for the value of the two dozen homes that line Beaver Run, Ms. Thomas said. The homes, built on what the county considers flood plains, are valued between $150,000 and $200,000.
Allview needs an annual stream debris-removal program as well as a permanent erosion plan, Ms. Thomas said.
She said she was fortunate to work a deal to get the Maryland Conservation Corps, a state-run job program for 800 low-income youths, to lend a hand.
With gloves in hand and rubber boots thigh-high, the teen-agers scooped out fallen tree limbs and took out broken tree trunks.
Mrs. Smith, 80, happily baked the teens cupcakes. "They're doing a great job."