Protect Mason Springs

In 1997, the Charles County commissioners approved a comprehensive plan that was created by a citizen task force appointed by the commissioners. That comprehensive plan deferred Mason Springs as part of the development district. No development was to be planned here until the year 2017 at the earliest.

Nonetheless, in 1999 the Charles County Planning Commission gave preliminary approval to two subdivision plans within the deferred development district. These two proposed subdivisions actually make up one integrated project that would border on the historic Araby property. Araby has a strong association with George Mason, the intellectual author of our nation's Bill of Rights.

This area is completely inappropriate for development. The proposed project would crowd over 500 housing units into an area that has steep slopes and highly erodible soils--and would drain in the sensitive Mattawoman Creek, one of the county's greatest treasures. A recent Washington Post article ["Charles May Require Soil Surveys to Curb Cracking Foundations," June 24] demonstrates the harm that has been caused homeowners by years of our county approving development on steep slopes and erodible soils.

The Mattawoman Creek is vitally important to our county's future. Degrading the water quality of the creek would be self-destructive. A healthy Mattawoman Creek, the best fishery in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay system, is an important part of our heritage. Placing this project on high slopes draining into a sensitive part of the creek is simply unacceptable. It would be unfair to future generations.

If this major project were to be built, it would permanently transform the traffic between Indian Head and La Plata on Route 225 and 425. Right now, that traffic flows pretty freely. This would change if this project were built. There are implications for the Naval Surface Warfare Center.

In this year of drought, there is also the groundwater issue. The state of Maryland has issued permits for much more groundwater from the Patapsco Aquifer that can be pumped sustainably. This means that there is already pressure on the Patuxent Aquifer, which has limited ability to supply the needs of a county that is growing too fast.

For all these reasons, and many more, the county and state must get together and kill the project proposed to be built next to Araby. We ask that all our elected officials follow the lead of Commissioner James M. Jarboe (D-Indian Head) and speak out for preservation of our heritage, and for the rejection of this ill-sited project.

PATRICIA C. STAMPER

SAMMS (Save Araby,

Mattawoman and Mason Springs)

La Plata

A Flood of Drought Advice

I used to hate it when I heard it was supposed to rain on weekends--especially during the summer. . . . But as last weekend approached and I heard the weather forecast, I was delighted to hear something I used to dread: a 70 percent chance of rain on Saturday and Sunday.

Even as those forecasts came true, it was not enough. . . . It would need to pour for a month or more for us to start seeing relief.

Like it or not, the governor has issued an executive order prohibiting water use in most cases, but he has provided an out.

In order to prevent a deluge of requests for exemptions relating to the governor's executive order, each county has been given authority to grant waivers or restrictions.

In St. Mary's County, a three-member board has been set up to accept waivers. It took its first application Aug. 16, and so far has received five, rejected two, modified another and granted two. However, this board--the Drought Coordinator Committee--can only make recommendations for waivers. The final judgment is made by County Administrator Mort Smedley. . . .

[P]lease adhere to these restrictions. If you don't, you're breaking the law and you could face trouble you don't really want simply because you don't like a brown lawn. . . .

[T]his drought has made us look at a problem that has existed before the rains didn't come. That's why I am hosting a public forum on Sept. 15 at the Calvert Pines Senior Center in Prince Frederick at 10 a.m. to talk about our aquifers in Southern Maryland.

At this meeting, we will discuss the water levels in the aquifers that supply our area water as well as the reasons why so many of our local wells are failing. . . .

But before this meeting, let's see what we can do to reduce water use in Maryland. Assuming one out of every two Marylanders decide to conserve water, we can:

Save 12.5 million gallons per day by reducing our time in the shower by one minute.

If we turn our faucet off while brushing our teeth, we can save 10 million gallons of water a day or 300 million gallons a month.

If we put only full loads of laundry in the machine, we can save 26.25 million gallons of water a day.

ROY P. DYSON

State Senator

Great Mills

Thanks for Great Night Out

On behalf of the men and women of the Charles County sheriff's office, I wish to once again extend my appreciation and sincere thanks to all the citizens who participated in and supported National Night Out 1999. I personally wish to commend all the neighborhood coordinators and volunteers who devoted many hours in planning and supporting this annual crime and drug prevention community event.

National Night Out 1999 was an unqualified success with more than 70 neighborhoods in Charles County participating. Over 7,500 Charles County residents came out on the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 3, to enjoy the company of their neighbors in this annual goodbye party to crime, drugs and violence.

Our 16th annual National Night Out achieved its goals of building neighborhood unity and fostering positive police-community partnerships in our fight against crime. This sends a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back. Together, Charles County residents and law enforcement are making a loud statement: We will stand together against crime, violence and drugs in our neighborhoods. . . .

[The letter then expressed appreciation to more than 60 local businesses, agencies and civic groups that helped sponsor and organize National Night Out activities.]

FREDERICK E. DAVIS

Charles County Sheriff

La Plata

Civil Talk Over Land Swap

[Thursday] night at the public hearing in the North Beach Fire Hall, I was proud to be a resident of Chesapeake Beach. Over 100 folks, from ages 9 to 90, came out to express their opinions as we do here in America. It was an eclectic mix of folks. Speakers ranged from the lovely town librarian who's lived in town all her life, to a newly arrived college professor. All were passionate in their love for the town, its children and, as we discovered, each other. At the hearing's conclusion, the fire hall became a social setting where friends met friends and made new ones, regardless of position on the issue at hand. Folks went out of their way to shake hands with many of the speakers, respectfully discussing which part they agreed with, or begged to differ on, or maybe which part changed their own opinion a tad.

Coach Mike Emery claimed he was no politician, then gave a resounding speech that made one thing clear: No politician in his right mind would want to run against him for public office. While the audience was pretty well split down the middle on the land swap issue, the vast majority opinion was that the ballfields need to be upgraded for the children.

If that parcel of land, adjacent to the water park, identified as "future development," was the reason for bringing all these good folks together, then it served its purpose. However, if this same parcel of land is preventing the townspeople from "doing right by the kids," then this parcel needs to go away so some child can be kicking a football or soccer ball on it.

Mayor Donovan concluded by stating that Mr. Rocco Ragano made the best speech of all. He was right. God bless Chesapeake Beach!

PAT "Irish" MAHONEY

Town Councilman

Chesapeake Beach

Land Swap Offers Best Plan

In regard to the recent letters concerning the proposed land swap in Chesapeake Beach, since I alone attended the actual [Calvert] County Commissioners meeting regarding the land swap, I think it is necessary to state all the facts.

At no time during this meeting was an expansion of the current water park ever a part of the proposal. The proposal was to give the county the four acres directly west of the current ballfields in exchange for the four acres directly behind the Sea Breeze restaurant and Fastop Gas & Go. This four acres would include about one-half of the current ballfields. In exchange, the town has generously offered to construct two new baseball fields, one football/soccer field, lighting for all fields, movable bleachers, larger and improved tot lot, new bathrooms, electronic scoreboard, over 100 extra parking spaces and to finish the Northeast Community Center (you are aware there are 5,600 square feet of unfinished space in the community center)--and all this at no cost to the county!

How is this possible, you ask? By a grant of some $500,000 from the Bureau of Natural Resources for improvements on the recently created fill area only and not on the existing recreation areas. This would free up the $100,000 in recreation fees the county holds for Chesapeake Beach to finish the community center. In fact the county could make money on this deal since the mayor has offered to give the county the four acres for a lease on the front four acres, thereby the county would own eight acres. . . .

The land for Kellam field was generously willed for youth activities by the Kellam family in 1977. The entire area is a fill site--just like the newly created area. Reading some of the recent letters to the editor, they range from Mr. Mahoney's letter leading you to believe that the children would be playing on something the equivalent to raw sewage to Ms. Morley's letter stating, "I'm not against children or ballfields, but they do not need to be in the heart of town. We have ballfields in Dunkirk Park." Gee, maybe Ms. Morley would prefer that we trade with Dunkirk--their sewage problems (such a big issue at election time) to be pumped to our sewage facility in exchange for sending our children to play in their park! As for Mr. Mahoney, he should realize that a "spoil site" is nothing more than sand from the bottom of the bay--the same bay everyone complained about not having access to when the Windward Keys development arrived. The same bay that is home to our biggest commodities, the blue crab that crawls and breeds in that fill dirt, the same fill dirt that is feeding ground for the popular rockfish--both eaten locally by almost everyone. . . .

In closing, I feel that including the idea that, in the future, this land might be used for a water park expansion in this proposal is unfair. Should the county commissioners throw away the opportunity to benefit from this $500,000 grant that would benefit so many people countywide to protect certain individuals who fear what might happen? Instead, let's deal with the issues at hand.

The future development of the current ballfield area is a town issue--not a county issue. Further, it is my belief that $100,000, unfortunately, is not enough to light Kellam field. The piling, alone, to support the required posts to support the lighting would cost in excess of $50,000. At election time, certain commissioners asked me to come up with a plan that would reduce the cost of lighting Kellam field as much as possible. Free is as good as it gets!

MICHAEL L. EMERY

Owings

There's Reason for Ratings

There has been a great deal of debate recently regarding the entertainment industry's role in the erosion and degradation of the overall morality of our society. Apparently, according to some, Hollywood is to blame for how violent and hardened our youth have become. Many seem to think that for the emotional and mental well-being of our children that film studios should stop engaging in this sex and violence free-for-all and be "responsible" for once. I go to movies fairly often. I see different types of films with varying MPAA ratings. Recently I went to an R-rated movie in Waldorf. One would think that in an R-rated film audience everyone would be over the age of 17. This wasn't the case and simply never is. In this particular film, there was a great deal of profanity and adult subject matter. When I say adult subject matter, I am referring to subject matter that is relevant to and understood by the "average" adult. I don't feel that this is an appropriate place for parents to discuss these topics with their toddler-aged children, which is what occurred at a recent film. At still another feature, animated but R-rated, a parent got up about 20 minutes into the film and with toddlers in tow, vacated the theater--apparently she was uncomfortable with the subject matter. It was R-rated! Why did she bring these children in the first place?

I don't think that the MPAA ratings system is perfect but when parents expose their children to the sex and violence that they claim is degrading society, why do they turn right around and blame Hollywood? Why do parents blame television for its disgusting and corrosive content when they can simply turn the box off? I think that all we should expect from Hollywood is to sell whatever it can. Isn't that what this society is based upon? Capitalism? Supply and demand? If society would simply refuse what the entertainment industry is selling, it would go away. That is how business works. The entertainment industry should not be responsible for what children watch. I believe that parents hold this responsibility.

Hollywood has a system in place for parents to use when deciding if films are suitable or appropriate for their children. Unfortunately, too many decide to ignore this system and instead complain when their children are affected by the material they are exposed to. I would like to live in a society where a film ratings system is unnecessary--if parents knew what their children were listening to, watching or playing (as in video games), then a ratings system would be needless. People often ask what has happened to this country and I wonder myself sometimes. I think the biggest step to reform is a little discipline and personal responsibility. It's difficult but I believe it would go a long way.

RICHARD WHITE

Waldorf