Concerned about a history of neglect and a rapidly changing landscape, several residents living along some of the Glen Burnie area's most vulnerable waterways have formed a city-county group to keep an eye on government and developers.
The Curtis-Marley-Furnace Watershed Association, named for Furnace and Marley Creeks in Anne Arundel County and Curtis Creek in the city, was formed with the goal of reopening the creeks to swimming and refocusing county attention on the area's future.
"This whole area hasn't had large development in years," said association founder Jennifer McBride, an electrical engineer who has lived in Glen Burnie for nearly a decade.
"It's going to change the whole dynamic of our area," she said. "It better be for the better."
Last night, the group met with county officials to discuss the sewer system and how proposed developments would affect it.
At least three projects are planned for the areas near the creeks: Tanyard Cove, a 753-home development on the Glen Burnie-Pasadena line; Glen Abbey, a development including 1,000 single-family homes and condominiums between Brooklyn Park and Curtis Bay; and Creekside at Osprey Landing, an age-restricted community that would include a 44-slip marina and private boat ramp.
The 88-home Osprey project would sit on the banks of Marley Creek. McBride said she has mixed feelings about the project, which has not received county or state approval.
"I worried that the boats will bring sewage problems, but let's face it, the creek has had sewage problems for 25 years," she said. "The biggest problem has been county neglect, and this marina will stop county neglect."
Others along Marley Creek are firmly opposed, saying the creeks have improved and that they do not want increased traffic along the waterways.
"The quality of water is finally getting better, and we don't need this sort of development," said Gary Schoenemann, who lives across Marley Creek from the proposed site.
Schoenemann, who has lived in the area for 15 years, said the shoreline has always been pristine and that he is concerned that development would damage an ecosystem that includes endangered eagles. He has spoken against the project at state permit hearings.
"It's been quiet here for many years, and that's really been for the best because the creek is not healthy," Schoenemann said.
A representative of the company that plans to build Creekside at Osprey said developers are taking great pains to leave woodlands intact and to provide wide buffers between houses and Marley Creek.
"There has been significant thought about how to preserve the natural, pristine beauty of the shoreline," said David Vannoy of Grayson Development Co.
Vannoy said the planned marina and private boat ramp are natural uses for land along the creek.
Longtime residents have noticed that Marley's waters have rebounded in recent years, with blue herons, red foxes, river otters and kingfishers joining the eagles on the creek's shores.
"Any new marinas ought to be examined very carefully," said Marsha Drenzyk, a Pasadena activist who monitors environmental issues.
Drenzyk said residents need to know who is going to monitor the boat slips, where the sewage pump-out facilities are and how many boats the marina will be adding.
Though Drenzyk is not a member of McBride's group and said the marina won't affect her directly because she lives a few creeks away, she said having a citizens group monitor creek activity and county oversight is crucial.
"There are a number of neighborhoods that join the three creeks that have been long neglected," she said.
"People who live in a specific area need to be a deciding factor in what happens there."