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Getting Your Boat to Water

No walk in the park in Chesapeake Country

Water, water everywhere in Chesapeake Country. Getting to it is the trick — as I found when I tried to locate Southern Anne Arundel County’s two new water access points.
    Both are at public parks in Shady Side. Shady Side Park opened last month; Jack Creek Park a year ago.
    My first goal was to locate the launch at Shady Side Park. Heading down Shady Side Road, I saw one small sign indicating the park straight ahead. What I found was a baseball field. No sign identified it as a park.
    Studying my map, I drove up East West Shady Side Road and onto Ford Road following it to a sign for Clarks Landing Marina. I was sure this wasn’t the right place. Returning to Ford Road, I stopped beside the baseball field to check my map again. Trying to get oriented, what did my wandering eyes behold but a small sign atop a fence announcing Car Top Boat Unloading. This had to be the place.
    I followed the arrow, entering a space between two chain-link fences and followed a short wood-chipped path to the water. No hiking paths or picnic tables here. Just a very small launch area.
    Disappointed, I set out to find Jack Creek Park.
    As I slowly drove down Snug Harbor Road, I kept an eye out for some identification of a park. I passed Shady Side Elementary School, marked on my map as just before the park. As I passed an unpaved driveway, I cast my eyes down the road to a large brown-and-cream-colored sign.
    I entered the rugged driveway but was stopped by a locked fence announcing park restrictions and a phone number to call if you wanted to use the park.
    Really? Call first?
    I trespassed, scooting around the locked fence. The gravel road turned into a weed-embedded older road with a few patches of gravel peaking through. The footpath became rougher, rugged, pitted and covered with a low growth of weeds and lots of poison ivy.
    Prodding and stumbling on for almost a mile, I couldn’t image carrying a canoe or a kayak this distance. By the time I gave up, I was hot and itchy.
    So, my friends, if you want to launch your canoe or kayak, you had better be sharp-eyed and able-bodied. Forget about launching a small boat or Sea-Doo, as I had hoped — at least in South County.
    Work starts on a new boat launch way north in Fort Smallwood this month. Waiting and traveling: Those are the alternatives.

    Editor’s note: Another alternative would have saved Vicki time and trouble. Facilities at all ramps are detailed at Maryland www.dnr.state.md.us/boating/boatramps.asp.