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Thurmont to renovate Frank Bentz Pond

Chris Patterson

(2/24) Thurmont officials unanimously approved a plan Tuesday to renovate Frank Bentz Pond.

A representative of Maryland's Department of Natural Resources presented the plan, which still requires the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

It's not the first time Harvey Bryant, a project manager at the Department of Natural Resources, has presented the plan to the board.

In October, Bryant learned of trouble with the town's planned takeover of the pond. The Army Corps of Engineers said it did not want to repair the failing dam and restore the pond, but instead wanted to remove it and restore the natural flow of Hunting Creek.

The town's Board of Commissioners, the Frank Bentz Pond Committee and scores of residents made it clear then that removing the pond was not an option.

Frank Bentz Pond is not just a pond to the town. It is a place of history, memories and a large part of the identity of the community.

The pond's history goes back to 1908, when a group of businessmen created the Electric Light and Power Co. Two years later, the pond was built by damming up Hunting Creek. Water from the creek was then routed to generators sitting in the current location of the Thurmont 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 their 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 2001, state Del. Paul S. Stull (R-Dist. 4A) of Walkersville helped the town to obtain funding for the pond's current renovation, but the plans fell apart, leaving the pond to continue to fill with silt and the dam to deteriorate.

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 has substantially decreased its depth.

This week, Bryant proposed another plan to restore the pond that will shore it up with a new material that he guesses should last about 50 years or more.

Called "articulating block" it looks a bit like pillows of concrete block reinforced with steel. It is used frequently in areas where erosion is a factor.

Though not as attractive as some would like, it will keep the pond intact, Bryant said.

In addition, a 40-foot buffer will require all trees be removed, but grasses and flowers may be planted in the area once the work is done, he said.

Committee member Dennis Smith spoke strongly in support of the new plan and urged the board to approve it quickly.

Former town mayor Eileen Waesche said she was not as pleased with the new design for the pond, but understood the need to move forward.

Board members unanimously supported the change and will provide Del. Stull with a letter of support to take to the Army Corps of Engineers. Stull will also schedule a meeting between the town, Stull and the corps to attempt to get the corps' approval for the plan, Stull said.

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