For kids' sake, an Anne Arundel pier

OUTDOORS

March 14, 2004|By CANDUS THOMSON

Fishing piers are one of the great ways for kids to learn the sport.

Good ones are sturdy, long and wide. Unfortunately in the greater Baltimore area, they're also few and far between.

But by this time next year, the ranks will grow by one. You can thank the Pasadena Sportfishing Group for applying a little pier pressure on the Anne Arundel County Council.

George Bentz, the leader of the group, began agitating for a fishing pier at Downs Park at the end of Route 177. The 245-acre park on the Chesapeake Bay has picnic pavilions, trails and ball fields but no good place for little ones to stand safely at the water's edge.

Bentz enlisted the help of then-Councilwoman Shirley Murphy, who began lobbying her colleagues. When Murphy left the council, her replacement, Ron Dillon Jr., carried the ball.

Last summer, the council approved $297,000 for construction of a 325-foot pier.

To minimize disrupting the water view of the park's residential neighbors, the structure will jut into the bay 150 feet and then dog leg to the south-southeast another 180 feet. At its maximum, the pier will be 60 feet wide.

Construction will begin in the fall and is expected to take 120 days to finish.

"It's gotten to the point where if you don't own waterfront property you have trouble getting to the water to fish. I think the county needs to provide even more opportunities," says Dillon, an avid boater and angler.

Bentz walked the site with me Thursday, pointing out how difficult it is for children to stand on the rocky shoreline.

"Unlike a baseball diamond or other sports-oriented areas, everyone who visits the park will be able to use the pier," he says. "It will be a great improvement for our kids' fishing derby, which we sponsor in the summer."

Bentz would like to see the pier named for the Pasadena Sportfishing Group, which is understandable given the hard work its members did.

But I have another suggestion. How about naming it for Bill Burton, Pasadena resident and Maryland outdoors writer emeritus? I can't think of an honor he would enjoy more.

Bear facts

It was quiet, too quiet, at the hearing in Frostburg on Wednesday night on the black bear hunting season. About 75 hunters and two animal rights activists heard the Department of Natural Resources' plan for the limited two-week season.

Seventy percent of the 200 permits would be designated for use on private land to help farmers deal with bears that have caused crop damage.

"We want to get those bears that are causing problems," says Paul Peditto, Wildlife and Heritage Service chief. "This will guarantee that we put more pressure on nuisance bears than on bears that roam our state forests."

The season would run from Oct. 25-30, and Dec. 6-11, in Garrett County and Allegany County west of Cumberland. It would end when 30 of the state's estimated population of 500 bears are killed.

But it was hard to discuss the season without thinking about what's happening up in New Jersey, where Gov. James McGreevey is having second thoughts about having a second hunt this fall.

New Jersey hunters last December killed 328 bears. Game records show that nearly 63 percent of them were females, 25 percent were cubs less than a year old and 10 percent were between 1 to 2 years old.

Through his environment commissioner, McGreevey said he changed his mind based on new population estimates that show there are fewer bears than originally believed. State wildlife biologists put the number of bears at 3,278, but an independent survey put the total at 1,490.

But the New Jersey Fish and Game Council was unmoved by the appeal and voted 7-3 to schedule a six-day hunt this fall. The council, consisting mostly of hunters and farmers, has absolute control over setting hunting regulations and seasons.

McGreevey, however has one more card to play: His environment commissioner can refuse to issue bear-hunting permits.

Members of the hunting community believe New Jersey's decision last year to end its 33-year moratorium on bear hunting helped make approval of a season in Maryland - the first in 51 years - easier from a political standpoint.

There's still plenty of wiggle room to allow Maryland officials to follow McGreevey's lead, especially if a compelling case can be made on the basis of population numbers. After all, if New Jersey is worried that 1,490 are too few to justify a hunt, what do 500 bears - and that's the maximum - look like?

Groups such as the Fund for Animals and the Humane Society of the United States are no doubt working on a new population study. And there's always the possibility of legal action to stop the hunt.

Maryland's proposed regulations will be discussed at four other hearings this month before a revised version is reviewed by the state Wildlife Advisory Commission in April. Then there will be another 90-day public comment period.

Whatever happens must be decided by Aug. 1, when hunting licenses for the 2004-05 season go on sale.

Snippets and tippets

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