Letter: Transform abandoned mill site near Catonsville into tourist attraction

We would like to propose an idea for the Simkins Industry site along River Road in the Patapsco River Valley.

We suggest the state form a joint venture between the Maryland State Park System and private vendors to construct an attractive and rustic welcome/information center to Patapsco Valley State Park.

The Patapsco River Valley is remarkable in both its history and beauty. Along these banks are found some of the gateways to America's Industrial Revolution.

The history of the mills, the railroad history, the building of the Thomas Viaduct, and the Civilian Conservation Corps' contribution to building one of the first state parks were all feats of engineering and production.

Other states already utilize some of their state park welcome centers for cultural and educational activities (Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, New York, to name a few).

What a wonderful asset this setting could be for the area.

Field trips or lectures by naturalists, environmentalists, preservationists and archaeologists would be accommodated.

Private caterers, refuse removal and janitorial services could be used to maintain the facility.

Perhaps fallen trees from the forest could be used in the building and solar panels for hot water.

Parking, along with public bathrooms and a small- to moderate-sized reception area, would be available. Profit could be generated for the State of Maryland by renting the facility for small conferences, or hosting small parties and receptions day or evening.

The location is perfect because it already draws thousands of people year round to the Patapsco Valley State Park to view the scenery and utilize its hiking, bike trails (some of the nation's best), camping, and picnic areas. It also draws ever increasing numbers of fly fishermen.

Traffic really wouldn't be much worse than it is now, evidenced by the increasing number of vehicles parked everywhere along Ilchester, River, and Bonnie Branch roads on weekends. If anything, some additional parking might alleviate that situation.

After years of looking at buildings with graffiti, in disrepair, and trash along the roads, we hope for a wonderful change. We do realize that this is a tough economic climate for all but this could create jobs and, at the same time, teach younger generations to help the future by learning from the past.

We would love to preserve this gem in our midst: what some past generations of the area used to refer to as "God's country."

Michael and Mary Davis


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