Margaret D. Brown had no trouble envisioning a sign for her neighborhood. It had to be aqua blue, like the waters of Marley Creek used tobe. It had to be stylish, so passers-by would notice the oft-forgotten Marley community.

The only question was what date to engrave onthe sign.

Brown wanted to announce that Marley was an old Anne Arundel community, dating back at least to 1831. But Shirley Kanus, a resident who is writing a book on the area's history, discovered that a black church existed in Marley as early as 1808.

Members of the Marley Area Improvement Association are researching their community's history to settle on a date before they order the $2,280 sign. Designed to reflect Marley's ties to the creek, the 4-foot-wide and 6-foot-high signwill feature a nautical theme and lettering in 23-karat gold.

"It's not a cheapie," said Brown, president of the civic association, who has pushed for installing a neighborhood sign since the group was founded in April 1989.

"We wanted to have a handsome sign, because we thought it would be uplifting for the area. This area has been neglected for too long by bureaucrats and politicians."

Jordan LumberCo. agreed to donate land at Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard and Furnace Branch Road for the sign and a landscaped setting. The sign will be trimmed with nautical rope and surrounded by marsh grasses to heighten the nautical look, Brown said.

Civic association members are selling $1 raffle tickets to raise money to buy the sign. A drawing for a $500 prize will be held March 26 at Marley Middle School.

The association also applied for a matching grant from the county's beautification program. If the county agrees to participate, Marley residents would need only to raise $1,100, Brown said.

Brown said she hopes the scenic sign advertising Marley will signal the rebirth of a waterfront community. Homeowners who live on the banks of Marley Creekhave been fighting for years to dredge the fouled waterway. The county plans to resubmit a permit application in the next month to finally clean out smelly muck from the creek bottom.

Three months ago, shocked and angry residents learned the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would not approve dredging the creek solely for environmental reasons. County officials then pitched dredging the creek for recreational boating as an alternative.

Nearly 20 homeowners have submitted permit applications to dredge private channels from their homes, said Robert B. Regan, a civil engineer with the Public Works Department's watershed management division.

The county has negotiated a 10-acre dump site, donated by CSX Realty, a Howard County company planning to build a 2,272-unit community on Marley Creek. The only hitch is whether the corps will approve dredging the creek for boating, Regan said.

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