Public Water Access Committee
- Our mission is to improve public water access throughout Anne Arundel County -
Water Access Committee Charter
Anne Arundel County has 540 miles of waterfront but negligible public water access on most of its rivers. Many people seek to live in Anne Arundel County because of its vast waterfront and are then surprised to find the extent to which this public resource has become privatized and unavailable to the majority of the public. Public water access may range from thin access, such as a public waterfront view or walkable beach, to thick access, such as cartop or trailer able boat access. Both thin and thick public water access are remarkably limited in Anne Arundel County, as evidenced by a report issued by the National Park Service comparing Anne Arundel County to other counties on the Chesapeake Bay.
The negative consequences to citizen recreation as well as the substantial economic loss to the County and our business community must be addressed. The administration urges the WAC to aggressively pursue both short and longer term remedies to the problem. Further, the administration pledges to implement feasible recommendations made by the committee.
The Anne Arundel County Water Access Committee, under the direction of the Anne Arundel County Department of Parks and Recreation, is charged with recommending public policies, including specific projects, to improve public water access in Anne Arundel County.
The recommendations should include at least one location for public access to waterfront on each side of each major river in Anne Arundel County. Ideally, that should include thick public water access. But in the many areas where that is not feasible, thin public access should be sought, including merely the ability to see waterfront from public land. On some rivers in Anne Arundel County, opening up public waterfront to thick public access may be feasible. On other rivers, new public property would have to be acquired. Rivers with both exceptionally good and poor waterfront access opportunities should be identified.
Public waterfront land is defined as all government owned waterfront land in Anne Arundel County regardless of whether the land is owned by the Federal, State, or local government, including the Anne Arundel County Board of Education or the City of Annapolis. To bring meaningful waterfront access to the public, the County may need to pursue partnerships with these government entities. It may also need to pursue partnerships with other entities that control waterfront access or might be seeking public waterfront access. These include the Anne Arundel Community College, local marinas, community associations, and property developers such as those for the David Taylor Research Center waterfront property. The Committee should identify relevant potential partnerships, regardless of whether they are immediately feasible.
The current default law in Anne Arundel County is that all types of public access to public waterfront is forbidden unless there are specific guidelines to the contrary. The Committee should explore the option of reversing the default so that the public has full use of public property unless there are specific published guidelines to the contrary. The committee should also consider strengthening laws to prevent neighbors from blocking public access to publicly owned waterfront without due process and regard for the public welfare.
Recommendations for Improving Public Water Access
- Establish a Public Water Access Commission, including adequate staff support, to provide effective ongoing oversight and direction.
- Compile a comprehensive inventory of all public waterfront land in Anne Arundel County, including land owned by Federal, State, or local governments, with local governments including the County, Board of Education, and City of Annapolis.
- Evaluate the feasibility of providing additional public water access to existing public waterfront lands.
- Welcome the public to waterfront lands under management of the Dept of Recreation & Parks through improved signage and policies that make access simple and convenient.
- Encourage the Anne Arundel Center for the Study of Local Issues to provide survey data on the percentage of Anne Arundel County residents who belong to a community association with the following types of water access a) view of water; b) Walk along the water's edge; c) fishing or crabbing d) launch a kayak, canoe, or other "car top" boat or e) launch a trailered boat. For those lacking these opportunities, ask if the County should provide such access.
- Create a permit system, possibly based on the Queen Anne’s County model, to generate dedicated funds for operation of thick access to public waterfront.
- Modify the Recreation and Parks website and produce a brochure to provide a listing of all access points and encourage use of public waterfront.
- Ensure that all public rights of way are re-opened to the public and dissuade local attempts to privatize or otherwise block general access to the water.
- Provide at least one location for meaningful thin and thick public water access on each side, preferably near the middle or near major transportation arteries, of each major river in Anne Arundel County.
- Create strategies for acquisition & development of additional facilities.
- Establish partnerships with businesses and other governments to create additional public access.
Department of Recreation and Parks 410-222-7317
- Mike Lofton, South County Citizen
- Tom Magenau, Owner Tri-State Marine
- Bea Poulin, County Staff
- Jim Snider, Environmental Activist
- Chris Trumbauer, County Councilmember
- Bob Whitcomb, Waterway Restoration Alliance