Del. Harvey B. Morgan (R-Middlesex) expressed regret Monday that Mathews County has decided not to proceed with a proposed project to dredge Put-In Creek.
Morgan had an idea for an alternative plan that might present a solution for the problems that led to the decision.
Known for his strong support of the environment, Morgan said he nevertheless disagrees with the opinion recently expressed by Army Corps of Engineers environmental scientist Adrian Jennings that the "high quality wetlands" shouldn’t be disturbed to give boaters access to downtown Mathews.
"Those are new wetlands," said Morgan, "and I think the value of having small boat access to the village would be more important than absolutely preserving all the wetlands."
The creek was still navigable for small boats as recently as 1968, said Morgan, and a turning basin was still "wide open" there almost as recently. But he said his opinion doesn’t hold much sway when it comes to influencing federal policies, so he’s been trying to think of a solution that would provide minimal impact to wetlands.
Since Put-In Creek already has a small dock in place, Morgan wondered why a longer dock or a series of suspension bridges couldn’t be built that would extend beyond the wetlands to an area that could be dredged without damaging the lush marshes.
"That would be cheaper than dredging or mitigating," he said. "And it’s such a protected cove, the dock would be kind of secure."
Morgan said that the ultimate goal is to allow dinghies to come to the dock, and his idea just might accomplish that. A sailor himself, he said that he’s been to towns that put out mooring balls that were offered as a courtesy for a couple of nights or rented for longer stays. Such amenities attract "snowbirds," or boaters traveling north and south looking for places to stop for a couple of days.
"They pass the word along about which communities are friendly and welcoming," he said. "You could have half a dozen or less (mooring balls), but it would encourage boats to come and make them feel welcome."
A boat that docks for a couple of nights is likely to spend hundreds of dollars in town, said Morgan, and Mathews, which has become a desirable tourist destination because of attractions such as the Bay School and the annual bicycle tour, would attract boaters.
"Tourism is great," he said. "People come, spend money, and go home. You don’t have to provide them with schools, services or anything."
Morgan said that whatever impact there would be on wetlands could be mitigated. He pointed out that the town of West Point had to provide mitigation for the marshes that were damaged when its two bridges were rebuilt.
"It’s not easy," he said, "but if it’s worthwhile, it’s worth pursuing. And I do believe it’s very worthwhile, very meritorious, and would mean a lot to Mathews."
In 2004, writer Paul Clancy wrote an article for Boating Magazine about his trip up Put-In Creek to Mathews Court House with L. Wayne Hudgins, who spearheaded the Put-In Creek project for many years before his recent passing. The article is available by visiting http://www.chesapeakeboating.net, typing "Second Coming" in the Quick Search menu bar, selecting "the phrase," and clicking on "Go."