Letter: Williams Wharf: A superb project 20 years in the making
It is really hard for the people who have worked for 20 years on the Mathews Land Conservancy’s Williams Wharf project to understand how fellow citizens in Mathews still lack certain basic information about the project. That is why the many people who attended the recent supervisors’ public hearing are to be thanked for getting so many questions and comments aired.
Maybe knowing that the grant that enabled the Conservancy to buy the property required that it be used for non-motorized boats will explain how that decision came into being. Since there are several public landings in Mathews without that requirement and since so much of the public use of Williams Wharf has to do with rowing, kayaking and sailing, it seems an entirely acceptable limit.
Maybe knowing that the property was purchased without the use of any county tax money, then held by the county temporarily as the funds had to be transmitted through a public entity, will explain the delay in transferring ownership to the Land Conservancy until all the grant had been drawn down.
Maybe knowing that from the beginning, county officials knew that the 30-foot public road through the property would have to be abandoned in order for the Land Conservancy to develop the project as planned, will quell some of the recent objections. After all, the entire property from the very start has been designated for the use of the general public in exchange for the 30-foot right of way.
Maybe knowing that hundreds of citizens each year have use of the Williams Wharf site to launch their boats, take lessons in water sports, fish, picnic, enjoy the magnificent views, etc., at no cost, will make the value of this project clear for all. Only if large groups reserve the buildings or the entire site, involving the need for insurance, cleanup, etc., is a modest fee charged.
The possibility that the major construction project—the boathouse—would be underwritten by the Owens Foundation was brought to the Foundation board by the late Wayne Hudgins, a member of both boards. After thorough due diligence to establish that the Land Conservancy was a worthy recipient totally dedicated to creating a first-class facility available for use by all the people of Mathews County, the Owens Foundation committed the funds necessary to build the boathouse. Hopefully, after the second public hearing next week, the supervisors will allow this superb project for Mathews County to go forward.
Meanwhile, Jim Smith and Tim Ulsaker and their fellow Conservancy board members deserve the wholehearted gratitude of the citizens of Mathews County for their endless efforts over two decades to bring this project to completion.