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Boat launch closing stirs up public dissent

By Staff | Feb 14, 2018

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary On Feb. 2 a crowd of 130 attended a public meeting to express concerns regarding the closing of the Muncy boat launch and access to the West Branch of the Susquehanna River on Acquatic Road. It was closed at the end of last year due to sediment accumulations that are considered a safety hazard according to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission

MUNCY – Emotions ran high during an open meeting held on February 2 at Trout Pond Park over the closing of the Muncy boat launch located on Aquatic Drive in the borough of Muncy. Facilitated by State Representative Garth Everett, who has frequently used the boat launch over the years, a crowd of 130 gathered inside to hear representatives from the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission explain the reasoning behind the boat launch closing.

The public meeting was organized by Mike Gray, Chad Gray and Mike Ott who started a committee through social media to save the boat launch.

John Arway, executive director of the PA Fish & Boat Commission explained that funding sources mostly come from licensing fees while Paul Urbanik, chief engineer with the Commission explained the historical aspect of the boat launch. Upon reviewing its usage since the property was acquired in 1981, the Muncy boat launch became one of six public access facilities in the county. It was completed in 1985 for $50,000. In 2006 it was mechanically dredged, and it had to be closed in 2016 due to a moving sediment bar that is threatening public safety according to the commission.

In 2006, 408 tons of sediment were removed at a cost of $2,018 for a long range excavator to scoop out the sediment. Much of this backed up over the years due to hurricane Ivan in 2004. It is costly to keep dredging and according to Urbanik there is no guarantee dredging will work. “Another storm could fill the area back in,” he said. He suggested looking at an alternate site, which would be more cost effective in the long run than continually dredging the current site which will now cost somewhere between $150,000 to $200,000.

A design has been engineered for a new facility on the other side of the bridge. Rep. Everett announced that the property owner has agreed to sell for $50,000 and it was projected that construction for a new launch would cost $525,000 for the entire project.

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Earlier this month a public meeting was held at Trout Pond Park to discuss the closing of the Muncy boat launch and the possibility of its reopening. Rep. Garth Everett facilitated the program with guest speakers John Arway, executive director of the PA Fish & Boat Commission and Paul Urbanik, chief engineer with the PA Fish & Boat Commission.

Meanwhile, questions flared as to why and if the current boat launch had to be closed until then. Only the fire departments have access. One resident shouted, “I pay my permits, but I can’t use the launch.” Another resident said he was fined for walking his dog down by the river in the launch area.

Everett said he would look into special appropriations from the General Assembly to explore the possibility of keeping the access open at an “at your own risk” policy status, hopefully by spring. He said he would also like to work with the “Muncy Boat Launch Group” to procure more funding. “It doesn’t make sense to keep re-silting it every 5 to 10 years,” he said and is in favor of building a new launch.

Jerry Walls, Chair for the board of directors for the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership spoke in favor of a new launch. “This is a pretty cool location for the sojourn trips,” he said. “I support a minor move of the launch.”

Harley Fry of Muncy who lives near the river asked, “Won’t we have the same problem 20 years from now? It will keep moving downstream.” The experts attested that the commission is trying to set their own fees and raise more money in order to build a new boat launch that will be more cost effective with safer access for all boaters.