Antietam Creek Water Trail discussed

August 19, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

WILLIAMSPORT -- An Antietam Creek Water Trail gathering Wednesday became more than just academic.

Landowners and representatives from state and local environmental groups, the National Park Service and several governmental bodies met at the Washington County Department of Water Quality on Elliott Parkway.

"We're looking at the Upper Potomac tributaries such as the Antietam a little more closely," said David Biser, vice president of the Antietam Creek Watershed Alliance based in Hagerstown.

Lisa Gutierrez, division chief of boating access for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, handed out maps of other water trails in the state, all funded with boat tax revenues.


"There have been 20 new water trails created, representing 600 miles since 2000," Gutierrez said.

That has slowed recently because of the depressed economy, but the work is still going on.

Washington County Commissioner James F. Kercheval wondered aloud about opposition from agencies and landowners, and was told by Gutierrez that since the state owns all surface water in Maryland, there have been fewer protests of water trails than some other land-based projects.

"You need to create a framework of partners to protect the resource," she said, referring to the more than 41 miles of the creek.

Since some of the Antietam Creek runs through the City of Hagerstown, Councilman William M. Breichner attended the meeting.

John Howard, superintendent of Antietam National Battlefield, spoke of his concerns about bank erosion from overuse by boaters and canoeists.

"We just got the area around Burnside Bridge restored," Howard said, noting the effort took nine years to accomplish. That area of the creek bank is marked off-limits for access or egress and will remain that way, he said.

Local historian and author Pat Schooley lives near the Old Forge bridge over the Antietam Creek. A strong proponent of the water trail, Schooley said there are some historic sites only accessible from the creek.

"The Antietam Creek is a window on the history of Washington County," she said.

Property owner Bob Foltz said his family has 1,800 feet of creek frontage near Devil's Backbone Park. In the past 10 years, he said, there have been few problems with water enthusiasts who stop there.

Joe Kroboth, director of Washington County Public Works, suggested the alliance keep in close contact with the county.

"We are always renovating bridges and we could be incorporating soft landing and access points there when we are doing that work," Kroboth said.

For more information on the proposed Antietam Creek Water Trail, contact Biser at 240-520-4364.

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