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Ayres Creek Kayak Launch nears completion - February 16, 2012

The Ayres Creek Kayak Launch on Lewis Road west of Frontiertown is nearing completion thanks to the hard work of many dedicated partners.

Slated for completion this spring, a new public kayak launch will emerge from the West Ocean City landfill, replete with a soft launch site, public parking, and a porta-john nestled in 3,000 acres of woods known as the Holly Grove Swamp.

Initially conceived by local resident Spencer Rowe and promoted by City Councilwoman Margaret Pillas, the project could not have happened without the hard work of the Ocean City Public Works Department and scores of local volunteers.

With a $49,000 State Highway grant for the $100k project, the Coastal Bays Program was lucky to have a partner like Ocean City Public Works which graded the site, removed abandoned structures, installed innovative mats for foot and vehicle traffic, removed invasive plants and built a living shoreline for launching.

Volunteers and the Maryland Conservation Corps followed up by removing additional invasives and planting native trees and shrubs.

Consultants for the Maryland State Highway Administration were instrumental in helping the Coastal Bays Program secure the dollars and the guidance for the bid packages for the additional work.

From the start, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Boating Facilities and Access Planning shepherded the process to completion.

Now DNR is working with Worcester County Tourism to make the launch part of the Assateague Water Trail. The water access will provide a route for paddlers to travel along picturesque Ayres Creek and Newport, Chincoteague and Sinepuxent bays.

Starting at the new launch site on Ayers Creek, paddlers can cruise approximately six miles to the Worcester County public boat ramp at South Point on Chincoteague Bay. From there, paddlers can go to the canoe launches at Ferry Landing Road and Bayside Drive on Assateague Island National Seashore, or they can travel along Sinepuxent Bay approximately four miles to the Assateague State Park boat ramp at the Verrazano Bridge.

The site at Ayers Creek is an important addition to the trail because it will provide the only public water access in upper Ayers Creek and connect this area to already established paddling areas.

The program is looking for volunteers to help manage the site and keep it clean and safe for visitors. A former rubble dump and shooting range, the area has since been cleaned of toxic materials and was cleared by the Maryland Department of Environment in 2007. Public access will be at a 40-feet section of constructed marsh and public use is confined to designated locations on the property.

The Coastal Bays Program owes a debt of gratitude to the Ocean City Council for allowing a portion of the 37-acre cleaned-up site to be used for recreation and tourism and for the hard work of Public Works Director Hal Adkins and his staff.

Both Berlin and Ocean City have gone beyond the call of duty in recent years to help support conservation efforts in the coastal bays.

We hope for the same from Worcester County as the program has secured $1 million to move forward with the Bishopville Dam project.

Getting folks out on the water will continue to help build support for protecting the viewshed and water quality of the bays behind Ocean City and Assateague where clean water and living resources is a huge draw for the millions of vacationers who support the region's multi-million dollar tourism economy.

The new Ayres Creek Kayak Launch is yet another great investment in the region's closely intertwined ecological and economic prosperity.

Dave Wilson is the executive director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

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