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Frank Bentz Pond future uncertain

Chris Patterson

(10/13/2004) It's been more than three years since Del. Paul S. Stull (R-Dist. 4A) of Walkersville led the charge for and won funding to restore a dam at Frank Bentz Pond in Thurmont.

The work was never done, and now, it appears, the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will likely remove the dam -- thus, getting rid of the pond -- in favor of restoring the natural flow of Hunting Creek.

Thurmont Mayor Martin Burns disagrees with the change in plans. One of his concerns deals with the pond's long history and the positive sentiment that goes with it.

The pond's beginnings date to 1908, when a group of businessmen created the Electric Light and Power Co. Two years later, the pond was built by damming Hunting Creek. Water from the creek was routed to generators sitting in the current location of the town office.

In 1920, the town officially formed its own electric company known as the Thurmont Municipal Light Company. The town has purchased power wholesale and sold it to residents since then.

In 1955, the pond was sold to the Department of Natural Resources, about one year after the death of the pond's namesake, Frank Bentz Sr. Bentz was the public relations director for the Game and Inland Fish Commission and he had helped to restore the pond shortly before his death.

In an interview with The Gazette following the announcement of the $400,000 appropriations for the pond in 2001, Frank Bentz Jr. said his father was a great fisherman and the pond has been a good source of fishing for families over the years.

Fishing at the 2-acre pond continues today, though the 212-foot, 13-foot-high concrete dam that created the pond is cracked and failing. The pond is also regularly filling with silt, which decreases its depth.

The money was supposed to help fix those problems.

Harvey Bryant, a project manager at the Department of Natural Resources, said the pond has been stocked with trout regularly, and fish are usually caught as soon as the pond is stocked.

Dottie Phebus and her husband, Mac, fish all around the area, but just recently started fishing at Frank Bentz Pond. She said she would hate to see the pond go.

Just about every time she and her husband have fished there they've caught some fish and "they were delicious," she said.

Phebus is concerned about removing the dam because trout don't travel upstream. Once they swim downstream, they're gone.

If the dam is taken away, Bryant said the creek could still be stocked for special events, such as a fishing rodeo for children. The silt will no longer be an issue once the natural flow of the creek is put back, Bryant said, and the costs once incurred to regularly dredge the pond will no longer exist because the silt will not build up behind the dam.

Instead of the dam, he said, there will probably be a kind of gradual drop created in the area of the pond that allows the water to flow naturally downhill.

The Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a nonprofit company called the American Fisheries Society, have all developed the plan. Bryant said the three groups are planning to visit a Thurmont town meeting in the next few weeks to go over ideas with town leaders in the hope of getting agreement on a plan.

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