, 2014


Supervisors ditch plans for
boat ramp on Simmons Cove

by Audrey Thomasson

LANCASTER—In a 3-2 vote, Lancaster supervisors last week decided not to move forward with plans for a public boat ramp on Simmons Cove off Dymer Creek.

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Supervisors reached that decision despite a study by a geo-technical firm that sampled the creek bottom and channel and concluded dredging the cove would be successful and boating traffic would keep silt from coming back for a number of years.

“It is not a bad material to do this kind of work,” reported Ben Burton, an engineer with Bay Design. “It can be done and will stay consistent.”

The board’s decision not to pursue the ramp was lauded by residents around Dymer Creek.

Since the announcement in February that developer Bob Sowder was giving the property to the county for public access, Dymer Creek residents orchestrated a campaign bombarding supervisors with objections which included a petition and claims that dredging is useless since the creek would silt back in, boat traffic will damage the creek’s natural shoreline and endanger the natural habitat of wildlife, and that the narrow creek would pose a safety hazard as boats line up to come ashore.

County residents in favor of public access accused the group of a NIMBY (“not in my back yard”) mentality.

County officials indicated the group had also threatened lawsuits that could drag on for years at tremendous costs to county taxpayers.

“My position is not positive,” said board chairman Wally Beauchamp. “I strongly support public access, however, as a boater and angler, I visited the site at high and low tides...” and at low tide the cove was mostly mud.

“I won’t disagree with the engineer report...but usage is a total unknown,” said Beauchamp. “We’re tying an albatross around the county. How much dredging will be needed? We need to do our homework. Will it benefit county residents or out-of-towners? I don’t know. We’re opening ourselves up to potential lawsuits.”

Beauchamp noted that other possible sites have come to supervisors’ attention.

“It is a mud flat,” said District 3 supervisor Jason Bellows. He noted the Dymer Creek residents are a good group of people who have offered to help the county locate a more appropriate site for public access.

District 4 supervisor William Lee said he probably knows the area better than anyone else having hunted there most of his life.

“The problem is this board and previous boards are looking for the perfect site. This is not the ideal spot,” said Lee. “The data supports a ramp, but should we use taxpayer money for a ramp that doesn’t support residents? There are other places. We should explore other options. There is no fishing there but a fishing pier is needed more than a ramp.”

District 2 supervisor Ernest Palin said he wasn’t in favor of sinking taxpayer money into a bad investment but that, according to the data, the location would work.

“There’s always going to be some problem,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to have that much traffic. We always imagine the worse, but when we look back, it wasn’t as bad as we thought.”

Palin also expressed doubt that the Dymer Creek residents would really bother to help find another location once they win the battle over Simmons Cove.

District 1 supervisor Butch Jenkins said, “It looks like I’m outnumbered.”

Bellows made the motion to deny moving forward on developing the property for a public ramp. He was supported by Beauchamp and Williams. Voting to keep the ramp alive were Palin and Jenkins.

A second motion by Bellows not to submit the grant application for $100,000 in state funding for the site also passed on a 3-2 split. Supervisors voted the same way.


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