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Trinity Episcopal Brings Attention to Eroding Church Point

Trinity Church Point Erosion 4Posted for Trinity Episcopal Church
Community Builder

“Church Point is washing away.”

Father John Ball, rector at St. Mary’s Parish, said this as he walked the historic shoreline of St. Mary’s City, Maryland earlier this year.

He wasn’t being hyperbolic. The St. Mary’s River has carved great gouges into sections of the shoreline just inside the stone jetties, known as “rip rap,” that were installed to protect it.

Church Point, home to Father Ball’s Trinity Episcopal Church, has been steadily eroding for centuries. Much of the original St. Mary’s City is now under water due to the continually shifting sandy shoreline of the Chesapeake tidewater region. Similar erosions claimed much of the land at other historical sites, sucTrinity Church Point Erosion 3h as Point Lookout and St. Clement’s Island.

However, what makes the Church Point erosion so disturbing is the potential loss of a natural resource, of such exquisite beauty that attracts residents of and visitors to Southern Maryland, and the speed at which it is happening. The state helped to finance the construction of stone rip rap around the point in the 1990s. However, the rip rap did not work as intended. Instead of helping to stop sand from eroding while letting the tide surge and ebb, the rip rap simply let eroded land slip through the opening and made it difficult for the sand to wash back in with the tides. The effect is especially bad on the point’s south side.

“We’ve lost so many trees, I can’t count them,” Father Ball said. “My task is: How do we preserve what we have for future generations?”

Father Ball invited Sen. Roy Dyson and Margaret McHale, chair of the Critical Areas Commission, and representatives of several state and local government agencies, to visit the site in early December 2012. Officials concluded that the rip rap needs a redesign, closing the current open spaces with overlapping stone arms to catch exiting sand and silt. Tom Brower, Shore Erosion Control Division, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Project Manager for the Southern and Western Regions, has been working on a new design to restore and protect Church Point. He and Ms. McHale have remained in close contact with Fr. Ball as their design and planning work progresses.

However, the problem remains of how to fund the project. Father Ball said St. Mary’s Parish would have to help fund the rip rap reconstruction, but the small church can’t do it all on its own. The priest reports, “We are projecting the project to cost at least $100,000, or more, and we are hoping the State of Maryland and other organizations who are interested in preserving the environment, public spaces and Historic St. Mary’s City, in particular, will help cover the costs. Senator Dyson, the Department of Natural Resources and Critical Areas staffs have been very supportive in this effort, too. They are all helping us identify possible sources for financial assistance.”

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