Heavy downpours are making inaccessible Maryland's first fly-fishing site designed to be accessible to the disabled.
Built at the southern edge of the Morgan Run Natural Environmental Area in Gamber three years ago, Project Access has become popular with disabled anglers, who cast rods from a concrete pier and often land a fat brown trout from the fast-flowing stream.
The 1,280-square-foot pier survives the storms well, but the sloping gravel-covered path that leads to it is deeply rutted and nearly impassable for those in wheelchairs.
"The ruts are really deep," said Art Nierenberg, a disabled activist who helped organize Project Access. "They never got the correct topping for the path."
The path may get a better topping soon, when the site becomes another kind of pilot project.
It will be the state's testing grounds for Top Seal, a polymer product that hardens when sprayed on the soil.
"The stuff actually bonds with the soil and is environmentally safe," said Walt Brown, the Patapsco State Park manager who oversees Morgan Run. "It could be a stable, long-term solution."
GOW International in Baltimore, a local distributor of the product manufactured in Texas, will sample soils at Morgan Run today, then conduct lab tests to see how well the substance works on the crushed stone.
"We are going to use this site as a pilot project," said Lou Trescott, a maintenance engineer with the state forestry service. "If the application works here, we can use it elsewhere, too."
Top Seal can be sprayed on the surface or blended into the soil, in the same way a garden is tilled. It hardens into a porous protector that will prevent the ruts caused by runoff.
"It is being used all over the world as a substitute for the products which don't hold up," said Joe DiCara, sales manager for GOW International. "It is impervious to water and absolutely safe for the environment."
Research has shown Top Seal has no effect on fish, particularly brown trout, which are sensitive to any change in the environment, DiCara said.
Nierenberg, who has fished in many streams in the western United States, said the substance has been applied successfully to wilderness trails.
"It will make the surface rock hard but porous so the rain cannot wash it away," he said.
If it works at Morgan Run, Top Seal will be a welcome change from the constant reworking of the 5-foot-wide path that slopes from the parking lot, Brown said.
The grade of the slope meets the standards of the Americans With Disabilities Act, but also allows storm water to flow freely. Every strong rain this season has created fresh ruts.
"We repair as often as we can after every storm," said Brown.
Pub Date: 7/08/98