Prince George's planners have recommended a comprehensive plan under which the county and neighboring jurisdictions could improve recreational facilities and encourage quality development along the Potomac River shoreline while protecting natural wetlands near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
The plan, described in a 154-page report that is to be presented to the County Council today, represents the county's first concerted effort to devise a uniform policy for waterfront development, and dovetails with state efforts to preserve the Chesapeake Bay.
Donald F. Heine, the county planning division's project coordinator, said yesterday that government interest in cultivating the county's 26-mile shoreline comes on the heels of evidence that the river is becoming healthy again after years of pollution and decay. About 12 miles of the county shoreline is privately owned and only 5 1/2 miles, or 631 acres, of the riverfront would be affected by restrictions proposed to benefit the bay, into which the river empties.
The draft report, which must receive approval from the county planning board, lists 11 areas in which recreational opportunities can be expanded along the river. They include:
* PortAmerica, an ambitious residential and commercial project that will provide for 1,000 boat slips, half a mile of bathing beach, three-quarters of a mile of fishing shoreline, plus trails and boat ramps.
* Fort Foote, a 70-acre site that is identified as the least-used parcel on the Potomac shoreline. The old abandoned earthen fort could provide a variety of facilities, including picnicking, fishing and future bathing areas.
* Marshall Hall, part of the National Park Service's Piscataway Park that adjoins Prince George's' southwest border and could "be developed into a major waterfront park."
"Without any adverse impact on the community or the natural environment, the Potomac shoreline can provide thousands of opportunities for additional recreation," the report said.
It also suggested that the county undertake a coordinated effort to upgrade and increase public awareness of the waterfront areas that are now, or in future could be, open to the public.
Many of these sites, such as National Colonial Farm, have been maintained as part of Piscatawy Park to ensure that the view from Mount Vernon, George Washington's estate across the river, remains uncluttered.
The planners concede that insufficiently planned waterfront development could become a "significant problem" for residents of the area, who have opposed projects such as PortAmerica. They suggest that the County Council design a new zoning classification to control development near the river.
Heine said he has received no negative responses from citizens in the south county area who have received copies of the draft report.
Zoning control, Heine said, also could provide increased flexibility in enforcing environmental laws aimed at preserving the county's valuable wetlands.
The marshes and swamps of the wetland areas, he said, "provide habitats for microorganisms which provide food for fish and the whole food chain system."
Heine also said that the future of the Potomac could be impeded by the continued growth of hydrilla, a fast-growing aquatic plant that the report warned "could take over the entire river."
The river's chief pollutants, however, remain urban and agricultural runoff from streets, farms and creeks that empty into the river, he said.