Glendening pays visit to Smith Island, his first ever

Governor keeps promise from campaign

looks at state-aided projects

July 28, 1999|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

TYLERTON -- Gov. Parris N. Glendening hopped a ride on a fire engine, pulled a rope that set a church bell ringing, learned to pick crabs and otherwise made his presence known yesterday during his first-ever trip to Maryland's Smith Island.

Not that any of the 347 people who inhabit the island's three small towns -- Ewell, Tylerton and Rhodes Point -- could have been unaware that the governor, along with an entourage of media, state officials and others, was paying a visit.

Even the sea gulls perched atop the piers and the herons wading through the Chesapeake Bay grasses seemed to take note of the hubbub as the ferry Chelsea Lane Tyler -- the boat that takes the island's youngsters to school on the mainland -- shuttled the group around Smith Island.

Glendening said he had met several Smith Islanders as he traveled the state campaigning and on other business.

"I promised a number of people over the past couple of years that I would come here, and I kept my word," Glendening said.

The governor also noted that the state had been called on several times to help fund projects on the island, and he wanted to see how they were working.

He said the state and federal governments contributed to building the crab-picking cooperative in Tylerton, allowing women who had long worked from their homes to continue the occupation in a modern facility that meets government health-code requirements.

The state also contributed to the "school boat" that ferries the island's children, once they finish seventh grade, to schools on the mainland.

And it helped the Ewell Volunteer Fire Department pay most of the cost of a $158,000 pumper truck that the sparsely populated community could not easily have afforded on its own.

"It gives me kind of a hands-on perspective of the decisions we've been making in the last four years," Glendening said.

The governor, accompanied by Natural Resources Secretary Sarah Taylor-Rogers and representatives of the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation, also surveyed federal- and state-funded efforts to control erosion that is rapidly eating away at the island.

"I came here to listen and to see because I want the state to be a partner in making sure that this community continues well into the future -- both physically and as a viable community," the governor said.

Glendening praised the deep sense of community on Smith Island.

"Everywhere you go you see that and you feel it," he said.

He received a friendly reception.

Glendening asked a clearly pleased Frances Kitching, 81, to autograph a copy of "Mrs. Kitching's Smith Island Cook Book" to take back to Annapolis and chatted with longtime residents such as Frank Dize, also 81, who was born and raised on the island and ran its mail boat for 56 years.

Janice Marshall, who spearheaded the effort to get the crab-picking cooperative built, led about 10 women pickers in song as they worked, much to the governor's delight.

As Glendening ended his daylong visit, Marshall expressed her gratitude for the trip.

"We certainly felt honored that Governor Glendening did take the time to come," she said.

Pub Date: 7/28/99

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