First county-owned boat ramp is opened
$4.9 million facility in Pasadena won't be the
last, county executive vows
Larry Velten began asking the question 35 years ago.
If Anne Arundel County has hundreds of miles of shoreline and tens of thousands of boat owners, why is it so hard to get to the water?
For years, the only two public boat ramps in the county were at Sandy Point State Park and Annapolis' Truxtun Park.
“We've been trying to get a boat ramp in Anne Arundel County since the late '70s or early '80s,” said Velten, of Pasadena, one of many residents to lobby county officials about opening a public ramp.
Last week, those efforts paid off.
Dozens of residents and local officials gathered Monday at Pasadena's Fort Smallwood Park for the opening of a $4.9 million boat ramp.
The cost to launch from the ramp is $10, which includes the $6 admission fee for the park, said Rick Anthony, director of the county's Department of Recreation and Parks.
It is the first public boat ramp owned by the county. During remarks at Monday's ceremony, County Executive Steve Schuh vowed it would not be the last. The county hopes to open boat ramps on the north and south shores of each of the county's rivers in the coming years, Schuh said.
“We'd like to get something else off the ground, if not this year, then next year,” said Owen McEvoy, a Schuh spokesman.
The goal is part of a larger initiative to allow county residents more opportunities to engage with nature, Schuh said.
As part of the imitative, the county will also open Fort Smallwood Park to swimming this summer, Schuh said. The county executive said the Chesapeake Bay is “cleaner today than it has been in the past half-century.”
The county also hopes to expand its network of bike trails in the coming years.
While residents have been pushing for a boat ramp for decades, the issue of where to build it created a roadblock, Velten said.
The effort to establish a ramp at Fort Smallwood stretches back at least eight years.
Then-County Executive John R. Leopold first proposed the ramp be built at the park in 2008. Leopold included money for a study in that year's budget, but the recession and concerns about traffic along Fort Smallwood Road kept the project from getting underway.
“It's a good feeling to see a vision transform to an improvement that will benefit thousands of people,” said Leopold, who attended Monday's ceremony. “It's taken a long time and much effort, but the vision is finally a reality.”
Fort Smallwood Park is owned by Baltimore City. The county signed a 45-year lease on the property in 2005. Once the lease ends, the county will have the option to renew the lease in consecutive 30-year increments.
County Councilman Derek Fink, a Republican from Pasadena, got involved with the project shortly after being elected in 2010. He helped secure $1 million for the project in the budget, and it was later fully funded.
“This is the first step in improving water access in the county,” Fink said.
While the design and construction of the boat ramp was about $2.6 million, an additional $2.3 million was spent on a 46-trailer parking lot, as well as road and stormwater management improvements, Anthony said.
The county received $1.3 million in federal funds and $2 million in state funding for the project, Anthony said.
Laura Neuman, who was appointed county executive by the County Council in 2013, made the project a top priority in her second budget. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in October 2014.
On hand for Monday's ceremony were members of the Pasadena Sportfishing Group, including the group's official mascot, Roxie the Rockfish. The group, which has around 2,000 members, celebrated its 25th anniversary this month.
The opening of the ramp was somewhat bittersweet. The group's founders, George and Ellie Bentz, who had been proponents of the ramp, died in recent years, said Ted Peapos, the club's president.
“They'd probably be tickled to death about this,” Peapos said.
While the group was excited to see the ramp open, Peapos also noted the need for more access. Anne Arundel has the highest number of registered boats of any county in the state.
In 2015, there were 33,365 boats, including about 9,500 vessels that can be pulled by trailers, registered in the county, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Mike Lofton, chairman of the county's Public Water Access Committee, noted that Dorchester County, which has less than a tenth of the registered boats as Anne Arundel County, has about 20 boat launch ramps.
“This is one,” Lofton said. “We have some catching up to do.”