Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts who want to get access to Deer Creek from Route 1 in Harford County can do so through a new county-operated launch site.
The site is accessible by the Route 1 bridge crossing Deer Creek, about 7 miles north of Bel Air at 3010 Conowingo Road.
The launch is called “Benjamin’s Bridge” in memory of Benjamin Boniface, of Darlington, who died at age 20 in a vehicle accident on his family’s farm in 2012.
He was the son of Barbara and Billy Boniface, the latter who is director of administration for the county government and who was president of the Harford County Council at the time of the son’s accident.
“Ben was a very avid kayaker,” Billy Boniface said Monday. “He spent a lot of time on Deer Creek and a lot in that area [of the launch].”
The Bonifaces also contributed money toward building the launch though a memorial fund set up in their son’s name.
The facility was dedicated Nov. 11. It is open from dawn to dusk seven days a week, according to county government spokesperson Cindy Mumby.
The county spent more than $406,000 on engineering and building the facility, which includes a paved road from Route 1 leading to a parking area and turnaround area, according to Mumby.
Visitors can then follow a walking trail to the east bank of Deer Creek to get in the water. An Aegis reporter visiting the site last Friday followed the trail through the woods to the east bank of the creek, where users can get in the water.
Swimming is prohibited, according to a sign along the trail.
The launch was designed to get kayakers away from parking on Route 1 and carrying their craft to the creek, as well as “provide a greater awareness of and access to Deer Creek” and honor Benjamin Boniface’s love of the creek, Mumby said.
The access road and launch were built on county-owned land, according to Mumby. A visitor can look through the trees on the opposite bank and see a barn on private property.
Funding support came through a $5,000 allocation in state waterway improvement funds and a $50,000 grant from the Ben Boniface Deer Creek Valley Fund, Mumby said.
Barbara and Billy Boniface established the fund, which is under the Community Foundation of Harford County, in 2013, according to the community foundation’s website.
Billy Boniface said the kayak launch is the largest project supported through the Boniface Deer Creek Valley fund so far. He said and his wife “wanted to do something we thought Ben would really appreciate” in supporting the launch site.
The launch project was selected by Barbara Boniface and their surviving children, Billy and Bethany. They decide which projects the fund supports, he said.
“We were waiting for the right project to gain access, in some area, to the creek,” Boniface said.
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He said “you take your life in your hands” when parking on Route 1 and carrying a kayak or canoe to the creek, so Benjamin’s Bridge gives users safe access to and from their vehicles.
The site is adjacent to Palmer State Park, through which Deer Creek flows. Boniface said the park’s topography would not support a launch site with a paved road and parking areas, but the nearby county-owned land did.
He said kayakers can head south from the launch through Palmer State Park and get out where Route 136 meets Harmony Church Road in Darlington.
The launch is also a place where people coming south from Rocks State Park can put out of the water, Boniface said.
He said Benjamin’s Bridge is “just the beginning,” as he and his family, working through the memorial fund, plan to work with the county, state and federal governments and create other spots where kayakers and canoeists can get in and out of Deer Creek.
“The county is going to be looking longer term — north and south along Deer Creek — for other launch areas to create something of a water trail,” Mumby said.
She said the county would have to work with entities such as the Harford Land Trust and the Army, which operates the Churchville Test Area at Route 136 and Harmony Church Road just south of the creek, to get that done.