Senator Wants New SMCM Boathouse Moved - Southern Maryland Headline News

Senator Wants New SMCM Boathouse Moved


I have heard a lot of complaints that the River Center project is nothing more than an unnecessary, costly eyesore.State Senator Roy P. Dyson (D-29)


This photo illustrates how the new boathouse at the St. Mary's College of Maryland now obstructs the once spectacular view of the St. Mary's River. Thousands of vehicles pass along this route daily on their way to the south end of the county and the Webster Field Annex of the Naval Air Station. Click photo for larger rendition. Photo by David Noss.

By David Noss

GREAT MILLS, Md. (Aug. 9, 2007) State Senator Roy P. Dyson (D-29) today sent a letter to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for St. Mary's College of Maryland, James P. Muldoon, expressing disdain for the location of the college's new boathouse. Dyson says that many of his constituents are not pleased with how the new project blocks the once spectacular view of the St. Mary's River.

"The outcry from those I have talked with, many of whom are major supporters of the college and others who love to visit St. Mary's City for its beauty and history, as well as those who live there, are extremely negative," wrote Dyson in the letter to Muldoon. "I have heard a lot of complaints that the River Center project is nothing more than an unnecessary, costly eyesore."

To remedy the situation, Dyson urges the College to move the boathouse to a less offensive location. "I do not believe the River Center needs to be 'torn down' as some of my constituents have suggested," wrote Dyson. "I believe it can be moved with some ease. There is precedence for this."

The boathouse is a component of what the College terms the "Rowing Center." The entire project also includes a second, larger two story building known as the "River Center." Construction on the River Center has not yet started. It is planned to be located inland, father from RT 5. A parking area will separate the two structures.


The view of the new boathouse at the St. Mary's College of Maryland as seen by motorists as they approach the college from the North on MD RT 5. The planned two-story River Center will be placed where the old boathouse stands (the small gray building on the lower right). Click photo for larger rendition. Photo by David Noss.

The College describes the project thusly: "This project includes the construction of a new 11,697 gross square-foot boathouse for sailing and biology research, and a 2,700 gross square foot building for crew, and waterfront recreation. A separate component of the project also includes water access facilities such as docks, ramps, and boardwalks to improve access to the river. Protection of the shoreline and the natural environment are key objectives."

The project is reportedly privately funded, but located on public land. Dyson expressed concerned that the project was never subject to a public meeting. "There is not paper trail, which I can find, about the project in Annapolis or anywhere else," wrote Dyson.

College officials were aware of public discontent with the project at least as early as July 13, 2007. "As construction of the Rowing Center has taken shape on the landscape, some have voiced concerns over its size and location," wrote Thomas Botzman, Vice President for Business and Finance, in an email sent to all College staff and the Historic St. Mary's City (HSMC) staff. "Some of the concerns raised about the Rowing Center have been over the loss of views. Without question, some views of the river have been lost as a result. As it is, the visual impact of the project as a whole has been minimized by splitting the project into two buildings rather than one large building. Also, to address scale, much of the River Center's second floor is placed in attic space to lower its perceived roofline."

Botzman also wrote of the planning efforts the College underwent to ensure a good design: "Since planning for the Rowing Center and River Center began six years ago, we have completed numerous studies to ensure that the needs of our waterfront programs are well balanced with environmental, safety, and visual issues. The College has consulted extensively with the Maryland Critical Areas Commission, Maryland Department of Environment, and the Corps of Engineers to ensure the project meets, and in many cases exceeds, State and Federal requirements."

Construction of the Rowing Center began in May 2007 and will be completed in August 2007 at which time construction of the River Center will begin. During the 2007 - 2008 academic year, the Rowing Center will serve temporarily as the center of waterfront activities while the River Center is under construction.

The entire letter is reprinted below.

RELATED INFORMATION:

Background Info on the SMCM River Center/Waterfront Published by SMCM
http://www.smcm.edu/facilities/...

August 9, 2007

Mr. James P. Muldoon
Chairman of the Board of Trustees
St. Mary's College of Maryland
18952 E. Fisher Road
St. Mary's City, MD 20686

Dear Mr. Muldoon:

As you know, I am a major supporter of St. Mary's College of Maryland. Since I have been in public office, I have been one of its major advocates in Annapolis and in Washington.

I am very proud of all of our athletic teams at the College especially our nationally recognized sailing team.

So it is with much difficulty that I write this letter. I share the deep, deep concern that so many of my fellow constituents do about the new River Center currently being constructed on campus.

The outcry against this structure and the way this whole process was handled has been extraordinarily negative. Quite frankly, it seems all decisions regarding this project - which I understand is to be privately funded, but located on public land - have never been subject to a public meeting. There is not paper trail, which I can find, about the project in Annapolis or anywhere else.

The outcry from those I have talked with, many of whom are major supporters of the college and others who love to visit St. Mary's City for its beauty and history as well as those who live there are extremely negative. I have heard a lot of complaints that the River Center project is nothing more than an unnecessary, costly eyesore. Therefore, I urge you to reconsider and relocate it. I am concerned with the location being on historic grounds of the first state capital.

I do not believe the River Center needs to be "torn down" as some of my constituents have suggested. I believe it can be moved with some ease. There is precedence for this.

After reading "Monument School of the People: A Sesquicentennial History of St. Mary's College of Maryland 1840-1990" - authorized by the College—I noticed a piece entitled "The Science Building Controversy."

It explains that "after two years of preparing a new master plan for campus expansion with the apparent support of the St. Mary's City Commission and local citizens, College officials in the summer of 1989 were confronted by a sudden and united opposition to the proposed location a the new $12-million science building."

The book goes on to explain "site selection was criticized as being destructive of the important archaeological, historical, environmental and aesthick features of that location."

Does this sound familiar?

To confront the brewing controversy over the Science Building, the Board of Trustees established a committee to review the structure. It sponsored several meetings and public forums with critics of the proposed structure. Eventually, then-President Edward T. Lewis decided to choose another location.

The book's author writes "St. Mary's College can be proud of the local alumni from three generations who challenged its decisions and conscientiously upheld enduring principles they learned as students."

Have these principles, so widely praised by the author, J. Frederick Fausz, Associate Professor of History at St. Mary's College of Maryland changed in less than 20 years?

It's time to revisit this issue before the students, faculty, college supporters and constituents become so opposed to this project that you have a full rebellion on your hand that you can not turn away.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and I look forward to a favorable response.

Sincerely,


Maryland Senator Roy Dyson
District 29

Cc: St. Mary's College of Maryland Board Members

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