Frank Bentz Pond future
(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
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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