Protecting The Scenic Severn: DNR Chief, Club Speak Out

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

May 30, 1993

On April 20, The Sun ran an editorial concerning the Maryland Department of Natural Resource's decision to authorize a boathouse on the Severn River and its implementation of the Scenic and Wild Rivers Act.

DNR agrees that in some areas the proliferation of boathouses has adversely affected the aesthetic character of the Chesapeake Bay. As the number of boathouses along the shoreline of our bay has grown, we have become increasingly sensitized to their cumulative impact. Our new tidal wetlands regulations include a prohibition on the construction of boathouses, except at commercial marinas.

In order for us to act as a responsible government agency we cannot dramatically change our public policies without providing advance notice and an opportunity for public comment. Through the development of these regulations, we have provided an extensive public comment opportunity. It should be further noted that Dr. William J. Cirksena's application to construct a boathouse was submitted almost one year ago, well before we proposed to ban these structures statewide.

Further, The Sun editorial misconstrues the intent of the Scenic and Wild Rivers Act, and accomplishments of the program. The Scenic and Wild Rivers Program serves as a mechanism to identify valuable resources in specific rivers and promote their protection. It was never intended to be a regulatory program, as The Sun implies.

As defined by the act, the program mandates the preparation of plans for designated rivers, and the study of other rivers to determine their eligibility for designation. Management plans are then developed in cooperation with a citizens' advisory committee and the local government, and upon completion, are submitted to the local government for endorsement and implementation. Therefore, the program's success is dependent upon local government and citizen involvement in the river planning and protection process as well as the existing regulatory authorities granted to county and state agencies.

Some believe the program should maintain shorelines in a natural condition and perceive "scenic" to mean "natural" or "wild." However, "scenic" does not necessarily mean the absence of structures. In fact, Scenic Rivers in Maryland, the document which recommended the designation of the Severn, recognized the the urbanized nature of this river, but also concluded the historic development patterns contributed to the existing scenic landscape.

Contrary to your assertion, the program has achieved more than the erection of "fancy little signs." The program has been instrumental in helping to facilitate the following: development and six reprintings of the popular Severn River Management Plan; the creation of the Severn River Commission as a result of a plan recommendation; the completion of a special resource study -- "Gems of the Severn" -- and increased emphasis on stream restoration and land acquisition as a result of the Scenic River designation.

Other rivers of the state have also benefited from the Scenic and Wild Rivers Program, including Deer Creek, Monocacy River, Youghiogheny River, Anacostia River and the Pocomoke River.

Torrey C. Brown

Annapolis

The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

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On April 12, 1911, eight men owning property along the Severn River held an exploratory meeting to discuss forming an organization to further their common interest. By April 29, they had adopted a constitution, elected officers and installed 32 charter members.

Thus was born the Severn River Association, the oldest organization in America dedicated to the preservation of a river and Anne Arundel County's largest civic group, marking her 82nd anniversary this year.

Before World War I, pollution of the river from inadequate or non-existent sewage treatment facilities was a major concern.

From the beginning, members realized their purposes could not be met if attention was limited to water problems, and the record shows participation in planning for both rail and highway bridges over the Severn; construction of highways such as B&A Boulevard and Ritchie Highway; opposition to the Navy's acquisition of St. John's College campus, and a host of other examples of civic responsibility.

After World War II, zoning became a prime concern. . . .

In 1952, the SRA constitution was amended to permit watershed community organizations to be represented on the executive committee, and the decision made to open membership to women. Incorporation came in 1953 and the executive committee voted in 1954 to mail meeting minutes to all members.

The association was a strong supporter of charter government in Anne Arundel County in the 1960s and members worked on the first major planning effort, North Bay Master Plan, and later, the General Development Plan.

During the 1970s, SRA successfully pressed for creation of the 1,300-acre Severn Run Environmental Area and achieved state designation of the Severn as a Maryland Scenic River.

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