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Group aims to protect Antietam's watershed

April 08, 2002|BY RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

Antietam Creek wraps around Waynesboro in two branches, east and west, that meet south of the borough at Pa. 316 near the Maryland state line.

From there the creek runs into the Potomac River and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.

In large terms, it's part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Closer to home it's the Antietam Creek Watershed, and that's what a new citizens group being organized by a Waynesboro physician hopes to protect.

The organizers met last week for the first time.

Dr. Stephen J. Rettig of Fish and Game Road said he was encouraged by the turnout of interested citizens.

If Rettig and his supporters succeed, they will create the second watershed association in the county. The first, the Franklin County Watershed Association, was organized four years ago to protect the Dennis Creek drainage area in the northern part of the county. It runs into the Conococheague Creek, which eventually enters the Potomac River at Williamsport.

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That group had technical and professional assistance from representatives of several state agencies who, during the normal course of their work day, helped it organize and recruit citizen volunteers, Rettig said.

He said the proposed Antietam protection association will depend more on citizen involvement and on the governments of Washington and Quincy townships, the Borough of Waynesboro, the Waynesboro Borough Authority and the Washington Township Municipal Authority.

The organizational effort has the blessings of Washington and Quincy township officials.

Rettig told the nearly 50 people who attended last Wednesday's meeting in the Washington Township Office Building that the association will be fashioned after the Lititz Run Watershed Alliance in Lancaster County, Pa. It, too, needed cooperation between townships, he said. A Trout Unlimited group led the effort to create the alliance.

Retting said the idea for a local association surfaced two years ago when the commercial development of the Diller Farm on Welty Road was on the drawing boards. The project, which has since been dropped, would have threatened the East Branch of the Antietam Creek.

Rettig volunteered to serve on an advisory committee commissioned by the Washington Township Municipal Authority to study the Antietam.

He and other organizers said an association for the Antietam would encourage landowners to fence off stream beds from cattle and to plant vegetation and trees to stabilize and restore streambanks and improve water quality and wildlife habitat. It would also save and construct wetlands, establish public education programs and work closely with landowners who own most of the land bordering the Antietam.

Rettig said the first steps will be to incorporate the organization so it can apply for grants and accept donations.

Melody Anderson-Smith, representing the Renfrew Institute for Cultural and Environmental Studies, pledged the support of the institute.

Paul Gunder, a local real estate developer, said a protected Antietam Creek watershed would add to the quality of life in the community.

Rettig said it also would promote thoughtful development along the creek.

George T. Hurd, a Franklin County extension agent, said the key is cooperation with and from landowners.

"That's critical to the association's success," he said.

Hurd said he went door to door to talk to landowners while helping organize the Franklin County Watershed Association.

While landowners would be paid to fence their creekside land, it will take a selling job to convince them to give up 25 feet of cropland, Hurd said.

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