October 3, 2023
Annapolis, US 69 F

LETTER: It’s time for the City to manage and operate the “DNR Docks” at City Dock

For the first time in over 50 years the City of Annapolis has a thoroughly professional Harbormaster and Staff.  Harbormaster Beth Bellis has grown the once rag-tag outfit Annapolis Harbormaster’s office into a well trained professional unit with responsibilities including (but not limited to): Safety, Training, Law Enforcement, Education, Fiscal Management, Tourism, Recreation, and Environment.

Daily (365 Days 24 Hours): in rain, snow, fog or shine, Bellis and her team are on Annapolis’ Waters from the Severn River to its four creeks:  Weems, Spa, College, Back positively representing our City.

Our Harbormaster manages a full time staff of 2 and up to 30 seasonal assistants who are trained in first aid, CPR, Narcan administration, Stop the Bleed as well as Rules of the Road and MD DNR’s operators course.  Recently, one of the Harbormasters was the first responder in a drowning on Spa Creek and are routinely on scene before US Coast Guard and AA County Fire Boat can respond.

The Maryland DNR is in the process of turning the DNR Docks and Burtis House over to the City.  A small non profit, Annapolis Waterfront Sailing Center, run by many of the same players as the defunct National Sailing Hall of Fame (NSHOF) is now vying for control of the DNR Docks.  Without public input, notice or knowledge, Brian Callahan- Mayor Buckley’s Economic Policy Analyst- also serves the non profit Annapolis Waterfront Sailing Center- and some wealthy political donors are in the process of taking sole control of the DNR Docks.

The Annapolis Waterfront Sailing Center wants to permanently berth two of billionaire Peter Kellogg’s sailboats (Bull and Bear) offering sailing ‘lessons’ and on the water activities to children in the community.  Friends of the non-profit will benefit as well with waived fees for dockage and electricity.

If this group were truly interested in helping children get on the water, they would direct the kids to one of the four great Yacht Clubs in Annapolis and Sailing Schools:  Annapolis Yacht Club, Eastport Yacht Club, Seafarers Yacht Club, Severn Sailing Association and Annapolis Sailing School.  All these Clubs have professionally staffed summer programs that teach children how to boat with safety and confidence.

Additionally, the Harbormaster is uniquely suited to provide educational as well as historical opportunities for Annapolis’ residents as she reports to the Director, Annapolis Recreation and Parks.  Their resources are unmatched.

In 2019, the City collected over $635,000.00 from Harbormaster’s Office.  Simply put, the citizens of the City and the of the State of Maryland would be giving away an asset that is well run, profitable and educational.

The City should retain control of the DNR Docks and manage under the professional staff of the Harbormaster.  The City can’t afford to do otherwise.

–Chris Buchheister, Annapolis

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