WEST OCEAN CITY — Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP) volunteers braved a brisk Monday morning to begin restoring and repairing the damage at the Lewis Road Kayak Launch in West Ocean City caused by Hurricane Sandy last fall.

On Monday, MCBP volunteers cleared brush and debris, planted trees and repaired damage to fences and other man-made structures at the pristine Lewis Rd. Kayak Launch, which opened last August.

The nearly 40-acre site off Lewis Rd. was once a dump for the town of Ocean City and later a police shooting range. The reclamation project was successfully completed through a partnership with the town of Ocean City, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP), the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and other state agencies and individuals.

The 37-acre site is owned by Ocean City and was used as a municipal dump from 1954 to 1980. From 1980 to 1989, the area was used as a police shooting range by local law enforcement agencies. The MCBP pitched the reclamation idea to the city, which had long since exhausted its use of the property, and a series of approvals and grant applications were set in motion to make it reality. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) conducted remediation on the old dump site and cleared it for an ecologically-friendly park and kayak launch in 2007 and a combined effort by local and state agencies and volunteers spent the next few years making it a reality.

The result is a gated parking area off Lewis Rd. about a mile from Route 611 with impervious parking surface and a network of trails leading to the soft-shore kayak launch at the edge of the creek. The new park provides a link to several large parcels in permanent conservation easement along the creek and throughout the Newport, Sinepuxent and Chincoteague bay watersheds.

The Ayers Creek Kayak Launch is also now part of the Assateague Water Trail, an interpretive water-based trail designed to educate residents and visitors about the rich natural heritage of the coastal bays watersheds. The new site is important because it provides the only public water access in upper Ayers Creek and connects the area with established paddling areas.