From Save the Rocks:
ROCKS, MD Jan. 28 — In response to citizen complaints, the State Highway Administration today removed workers from MD 24 in Rocks State Park who had been drilling for soil samples and cutting trees along the hillside just south of St. Clair Bridge Road. Residents complained the work was unnecessary if the SHA had put a stop to a plan to blast rocks along the roadway.
Deborah Coomes, who lives near the park, said her husband, Mike Coomes, heard a chain saw in the morning and went out to see what was happening. He said the road had been closed “to cut down a fairly large tree in order to get their drilling and blasting equipment high up on the hillside in a new location.” Coomes then went to the state park office, where staff told him they were unaware that trees were being cut down and that they were only told by SHA this morning that they needed to close the road to “move some equipment.” Assistant Park Manager Tina Bianca sent word to the crew requesting that no more trees be cut.
Save The Rocks chairperson Deborah Bowers emailed and then called SHA in Annapolis and urged that they immediately cease operations on MD 24 and that SHA acknowledge on their website that plans to blast rocks in the park and move the road would not be going forward. She received a call back from project managers who said they would consider the request to recall the work crew. Bowers, who had also contacted Sen. Barry Glassman, later received an email from him that “work has stopped.”
An email to Bowers from SHA project manager Jialin Tian later stated: “We apologize that trees and branches were cut down while the contractor was locating the equipment for the drilling for the soil investigation. SHA has requested the contractor to suspend the work and remove equipment from the site. We are looking forward to working with the Advisory Committee to develop new alternatives that improve the roadway safety and minimize the impact to the natural resources in the area.”
Bowers said it was unfortunate the drilling work, which is known to be prerequisite to blasting, was allowed to go on for weeks when the SHA had claimed the road plan would be revised “to address the concerns of citizens.”
“The SHA has given residents good reason not to trust them, and that’s really too bad,” Bowers said. “For weeks, people have had to put up with seeing heavy equipment digging into the hillside, damaging the environment, full well knowing the plan had been called off.”
Bowers will be serving on a Rocks Road Advisory Committee created by Harford County Councilman Chad Shrodes, which will begin meeting in February. Deborah Coomes was also appointed to the committee, as well as Brian Goodman, all members of the Save The Rocks campaign group which is made up of local residents. The group has a Facebook page called Save The Rocks.