When the city of Havre de Grace got a $425,000 grant from the state last year to build the waterside Maritime Museum and install an elevator in its Decoy Museum for handicapped access, boosters of the town's proud tourism heritage were ecstatic.
Barely noticed among the details of the legislation was the clear requirement that the locals come up with money to match the state grant. Well, yes, the important stipulation was noticed but everyone seemed to assume that the donations would begin pouring in as the just deserts of this worthy project. After all, the deadline was a full two years away. The first pilings were driven on the leveled site and a deck was built.
By the first of this year, however, it was apparent that the city might fall short of the matching goal. Perhaps $200,000 in contributions and pledges has been raised, officials announced, less than half the total. And major prospects for large donations have already been solicited by the Capital Campaign Committee.
Now the General Assembly is being asked to soften the terms of the matching goal. Legislation seeks to allow donations of services and of the land itself to count toward the goal.
That appears to be a reasonable request, since the projects will help to create a "regional renaissance of great historic, educational and economic significance," as the committee states its goals.
Indeed, if the project succeeds, and we believe it should, the benefits will flow well beyond Havre de Grace. Educators from three counties and from Delaware met earlier this year to discuss ways in which they could use the city's waterfront amenities to enhance student understanding of history and the environment.
While numbers of Maryland communities can lay claim to a waterfront tradition, certainly Havre de Grace has worked to maintain its heritage. The Decoy Museum and wooden waterside Promenade draw thousands of visitors each year, as does the Concord Point Lighthouse, said to be the oldest operating lighthouse in the nation.
Local fund-raising efforts have not flagged. A reception-auction was held this month, and the City Council chipped in $10,000. We expect the city to provide more financial support for this important attraction. And Harford County should provide money, in addition to moral support. In the meantime, we urge the General Assembly to loosen the matching donation requirements of last year's measure to permit the project to proceed apace.