Ceremony marks rebuilding of pier for disabled Activist says project 'removed all the barriers'

August 25, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Anglers rededicated Project Access, a fishing pier at Morgan Run, with firm casts of fly rods across a trout-filled stream.

A gently sloped path and a 1,280-square-foot concrete platform provide easy access for the disabled to the waters of Maryland's first accessible fly-fishing site at the southern edge of the Morgan Run Natural Environmental Area in Gamber.

Art Nierenberg, a disabled activist and the driving force behind the project, was the first to cast his line into the stream Thursday. Onlookers estimated the seasoned fisherman's line flew 30 feet across the water.

"All those who have made this happen have removed all the barriers," said Nierenberg, disabled by childhood polio. "With this pier, we are saying welcome to all, with no exceptions."

Ceremonies on Thursday marked the second dedication of the platform, which was rebuilt through the combined efforts of government, business and volunteers.

Originally completed 10 months ago, Project Access was destroyed in the flooding that followed the 1996 blizzard.

From his motorized wheelchair, Nierenberg cast several more times from different points along the pier.

Several children, many in wheelchairs, joined him near the water's edge. Volunteers showed them how to attach flies and cast for the fat brown trout swimming in the stream.

Sam Markowitz, 12, a novice at casting, spotted a fish near his line, but "he seems smart enough to stay away," he said.

No fish took his bait, but an undeterred Sam looked forward to returning to "this nice flat fishing place," just off Klees Mill Road.

The Reisterstown youth has tried angling at Liberty Reservoir, where rocks and broken glass make it difficult for a child who uses a brace and cane.

At the ceremony, James W. Dunmyer, an assistant secretary for the state Department of Natural Resources, gave Nierenberg an etching of the site and made him an honorary park ranger, one of six in Maryland.

Nierenberg said he may use his new status to push for more projects. "We have made a concrete beginning, but we want other places like this throughout Maryland," he said. "Maryland could become the leader and share this knowledge and experience throughout the United States."

The state is designing an access pier along the Gunpowder River in Baltimore County and testing flotation devices to allow the disabled to fish directly in the river.

The floods washed away volunteers' first effort to create an accessible fishing spot, but strengthened their resolve and drew the DNR into the project.

"The cooperation of people and government working together is a powerful mesh," said Tom Gamper, an architect and member of the Maryland chapter of Trout Unlimited. Sturdier construction has made the platform strong enough to withstand any deluge, officials said.

DNR crews replaced the crushed stone foundation with about 230 tons of concrete blocks, donated by Redland Genstar Inc. Volunteers painted the concrete deck a salmon color, a complement to the surrounding rocks, lush greenery and rushing water. Carroll County provided topsoil.

"The week after we finished, a three-day rain gave us a good test," said Jim McGee, DNR project manager. "The entire project was under water as high as the flood last winter. There was no damage."

St. Croix and Cortland, well-known fishing-gear manufacturers, have given 15 fly rods and reels to the project.

"Project Access is the beginning of my vision," Nierenberg said. "I won't stop fighting until all the barriers come down."

Pub Date: 8/25/96

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