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Ice Splash in Charlestown raises a cool $60K for good causes

CHARLESTOWN — The air temperature in Charlestown early Saturday afternoon was 26 degrees Fahrenheit — six degrees below freezing. As for the water temperature of the abutting Northeast River, it was 40 degrees. Gray clouds blocked the sun and, at one point, they even produced snow flurries.

In other words, conditions were perfect for taking a dip in that river.

“The water will feel warmer than the air. But it will still be very cold. It will be invigorating,” speculated Dave Hutchison, 57, of Charlestown, while standing on the riverbank, prompting his friend, Von Cole, to remark with a knowing laugh, “You’ll be invigorated when you get out of that water.”

Hutchison based his comment on his 10 years of experience taking the annual, wintertime plunge into that body of water.

He was one of an estimated 250 people who charged into the chilly river from the Charlestown public beach and waded 20 or 30 yards into the water, before turning around and making a swift retreat back to land and — more importantly — back to their dry beach towels and warm clothes.

So went the latest installment of the Cecil County Ice Splash, an annual event that raises money to support Cecil County Special Olympics and also schools and recreation centers in this county.

“We raised about $60,000 this year,” said Brian Muller, who is commander of the Sons of the American Legion Post, which, with the help of numerous individual and group-related volunteers, plans the yearly Ice Splash. “We raised about $66,000 last year. We didn’t have the event in 2021 because of COVID. The one we did in 2020 was held two weeks before the pandemic hit, and that year we raised $77,000.”

The funds to support Cecil County Special Olympics and schools and recreation centers in this county are raised, in part, through the sale of commemorative event T-shirts, sweatshirts and tote bags, a new item this year.

In addition, groups raise money through various charity drives. For example, Pine Grove Inn near Elkton generated about $20,000 for the cause through various charity events leading up to the Ice Splash, including a chili cook-off and an auction, according to Muller, who further reported that Pine Grove raised the highest sum of money of all participants.

Market Street Cafe in Charlestown and its patronage raised about $8,000 in approximately six hours over three weekends through guest bartender events, as well as through donations, raffles and such, according to Hutchison and Cole, who are affiliated with that restaurant.

In most cases, people belonging to groups sported zany-looking outfits — or at least team T-shirts — when they walked into the frigid water on Saturday, as did some who participated as individuals. Muller noted that Snatcher’s Creekside received the Best Team Spirit award on Saturday because participants representing that restaurant in North East wore eye-catching orange costumes and called themselves Snatcher’s Splashers. Snatcher’s Creekside also reportedly raised several thousand dollars for the cause through charity campaigns of its own.

Directly before and after plunging into the frosty river, participants hung out inside the gigantic event tent at The Wellwood restaurant across the street from river. There was a festive atmosphere inside that tent, with folks enjoying food and beverages while listening to music performed by Exit 93, a local five-piece band that played classic rock tunes and even some songs from other genres.

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Development plans for former Chesapeake Club golf course spark community action

NORTH EAST — As a proposed 726 unit development project lurks on the former Chesapeake Club golf course’s horizon in North East, concerned citizens in Cecil County have mobilized as the Cecil County Action Network (CCAN). CCAN, founded by Alexis Bazzoli, hopes to ensure that all development in the county meets the needs of residents.

“We don’t want Cecil County to never be developed, we want it to be developed on our terms so that our future generations can benefit from the land and the area the same way we have all enjoyed,” said one the group’s co-founders, Mike Welker.

The plans that caught CCAN’s attention were proposed by a Maryland based real-estate development company, Stonewall Capital. The plans look to utilize the former Chesapeake Club golf course and the surrounding area for a development consisting of 401 single family homes, 100 townhomes and 228 apartment units – adding over 720 units to the existing 356 units in the area.

The owner and lead developer of Stonewall Capital, Ray Jackson, who is also the developer of the Southfields project in Elkton, says the 726 unit plan is a reduction of what the land is capable of holding.

“The property is slated for 1450 (units) but instead of building 1450 units like I am approved to do, I went to the county government to see what they think would be best and I was asked to reduce the size. So I did,” said Jackson.

Jackson noted that his original downsize was a proposal of 1,00 units which the county asked be lowered to 750 units.

Regardless of the reduction, CCAN fears that a development of over 700 units will still have an impact on the area, specifically the traffic.

“Across from this proposed development is another micro subdivision so you’re going to have two very busy turn-ins right across the street from each other on a very narrow road,” said Welker. “We want Stonewall themselves to do a traffic study and disclose their findings.”

For a development project of any size, a traffic study needs to be completed and implemented by the developers before any building is approved or permits are issued.

Prior to a traffic study, a “scoping meeting” needs to be held with the developer, the municipality responsible for the developed land and the state highway administration to determine all of the factors of the study and the scope of the findings.

For the Chesapeake Club development, Jackson said he has hired Lenhart Traffic to conduct the study.

“There has been a bit of confusion as the county and school system also hired Lenhart Traffic to conduct a study, but they are two separate and distinct studies,” said Jackson. “They are not the same as ours.”

Jackson noted that after the study is complete, he will disclose the findings.

“Yes, the traffic is bad and we have to deal with it and hopefully when we design this, we hope to make the traffic better,” said Jackson. “It is the responsible thing to do and the people of the community need to have this information, they deserve to know.”

But CCAN’s concerns do not stop there. Welker said that the current infrastructure in the county is outdated and is a cause of concern for the group, as Cecil County is rapidly growing.

“The current plat for the Chesapeake Club is from 1987 and Cecil County has grown a lot in the last 35 years and I think that is the biggest problem,” said Welker.

The impact of a large development like the Chesapeake Club will affect schools, first responders, water and sewer – factors Jackson said he evaluates before even buying development sites.

The evaluation of a site, Jackson explained, is through an “adequate facilities” study to make sure the property has proper water, sewer, schools and first responder resources.

“The property was already approved so this project has been counted on to accommodate 1450 units,” said Jackson. “We have the proper water and the proper sewer and we will definitely have to make improvements to traffic and we acknowledge that.”

Once the traffic study is completed and implemented Jackson says Stonewall Capital will need to complete a Site Development Plan for road construction designs, engineering and stormwater management – an aspect CCAN was able to connect Jackson and the Cecil Land Trust on to ensure the stormwater is handled correctly.

“The Site Development Plan alone will take a minimum of six to nine months to complete so realistically, we are looking to actually start construction in about a year,” said Jackson.

Throughout the Chesapeake Club’s development, and every development to come into Cecil County after, CCAN plans to ensure that residents of Cecil County are heard and development is implemented to accommodate their needs.

“We are going to high-up every development project in Cecil County to make sure it is being done in a way that makes sense,” said Welker.

“Cecil County has valuable land in a valuable location,” Welker continued. “Our vision is Cecil County becoming an advocacy, so that way we have a voice and we can negotiate with developers directly.”