Island in Susquehanna given to state park

September 22, 2006|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,sun reporter

Maryland's park system grew by 72 acres yesterday, as a power company donated a small but historic island in the Susquehanna River to an adjacent state park.

Roberts Island was the farthest north that Capt. John Smith ventured as he explored the Chesapeake Bay about 400 years ago. The state plans to put the rocky, wooded chunk of uninhabited land on a tour of places that Smith visited.

"The island is rich in Native American history, and will be a welcome addition to the Susquehanna State Park as well as an important landmark along the Chesapeake National Historic Water Trail," said Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Chicago-based Exelon Corp., which owns the Conowingo Dam and hydroelectric plant north of the island, handed over title to the land during a news conference at Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis.

During a short ceremony, state employee Steve McCoy -- portraying the 17th-century explorer -- read a proclamation.

Exelon donated the land to the Conservation Fund, a nonprofit organization that orchestrated the deal and handed over title to Susquehanna State Park.

The company had owned the island -- which is about 1,000 meters long and 150 meters wide -- since the 1920s, when it acquired land to build the Conowingo Dam, said Betsy Moler, executive vice president of Exelon.

As part of the 400th anniversary of Smith's voyage, Sultana Projects Inc. plans to take a replica of Smith's 34-foot boat in May and retrace the explorer's path from the James River in Virginia to Roberts Island.

The stops along the way will be mapped and marked for people to visit in their boats as part of an historic water trail.

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