The tranquil cove selected for a rowing/paddling facility at Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis. Photo by Steve Adams.

Planned Annapolis Paddling & Rowing Facility Stirs Debate

Paddlers and rowers in Annapolis may have more public water access coming their way—if the Harness Creek Paddling and Rowing Facility, off the South River at Quiet Waters Park, becomes a reality.

The public got a first look at design plans for the $1.6 million facility during a virtual public meeting last week. The project aims to give much-needed water access to the rowing and paddling communities and improve public access to launch facilities.

The Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks and Public Works departments and BayLand Consultants & Designers, Inc., explained how they chose the cove on Harness Creek after a four-year search for potential sites including county-owned and privately-held properties.

Among its attractive factors, the Quiet Waters site would require no new parking installation, a short distance and minimal elevation change from car to water, and no dredging—things that would lessen environmental impact and maximize handicapped access.

A rendering of the current design for the paddling/rowing facility, shown in a virtual public meeting.

The design, which is still only about 30 percent complete, so far includes plans for a wooden boardwalk about 500 feet long to connect an existing walking trail to a pier at the water’s edge and a storage area for equipment and boats. It features a network of floating docks from a square kayak launch to long floating “finger piers” for launching rowing shells, as well as a side dock with six small boat slips and three small boat lifts.

The plan has not been met with excitement from everyone. Some neighbors express concern over unwelcome development on the cove and possible environmental problems.

“This is a rare, undisturbed cove in Quiet Waters with a natural shoreline that we enjoy,” Nancy Roth, who lives in nearby Hillsmere, told Bay Bulletin. “And it’s a refuge for fish, waterfowl, and shoreline species like the belted kingfisher,” added her husband, Mitch Keiler. “Development
would impact all of the natural resources in a way that can never truly be mitigated for; so while paddlers and rowers should enjoy exploring the cove from the water, we shouldn’t be launching from it.”

Some people also questioned water safety at the proposed site, wondering if the South River is really a rowing-friendly body of water.

“Harness Creek has substantial marine traffic that tends to cluster near, or often in, the proposed cove, so there are obvious safety concerns—especially when you consider the clearance and maneuverability required by a full-sized rowing shell,” Paul and Rosemary Smith, who live just up the creek from the site, told Bay Bulletin.

One person in the public meeting got right to the point: “How do we stop the project?”

Larry Schwartz, who paid for three benches to be installed in his late son’s memory at the cove’s overlook, says he would certainly miss the peacefulness the site now provides.

The virtual meeting’s organizers also fielded questions about potential park overcrowding and hours (rowers would be limited to early morning, afternoons, and evenings).

Despite the public’s questions and concerns, the county and BayLand maintain that a Harness Creek facility fulfills the goals of the project.

“We have made a number of efforts culminating in this site being the best option to meet design and geographic parameters,” said BayLand’s Chris Rager.

Taking into account the permitting process, the full design is expected to be complete by December 2021 with hopes of a groundbreaking in the winter of 2023.

To see the project plans, click here. You can still submit your own questions and comments, which will be addressed and posted online along with those from the meeting.

-Steve Adams