AW Maintains Upper Yough Access

Posted: 06/08/2004
by Charlie Walbridge

In the mid 1970's the Upper Yough was the scene of a long-running access controversy. As a protest against the recent designation of the Upper Youghiogheny as a State Scenic River, local landowners began harassing paddlers who attempted to run this stretch. Connected by a CB network, they sprung into action when cars bearing boats were spotted on roads approaching the Sang Run Bridge. Crowds materialized at the bridge. Rocks were thrown. Threats were made. Cars were vandalized, and no sensible boaters would leave a car in Sang Run. Someone even took a few shots at a passing raft. Landowners fenced off access to the river at the road bridge. Later a county ordinance was passed that prohibited paddlers from stopping on the bridge and climbing down the bridge abutment, and a paddler was later arrested for doing this.

For several years after this most runs were made on natural flow from Swallow Falls. A few intrepid paddlers found ways of sneaking through the woods, but this had to be discontinued when the locals found out. About five years later Imre Szylagi, the owner of Appalachian Wildwaters and a pioneer outfitter on the Upper Yough, purchased a plot of land upstream of the bridge. He allowed private paddlers, many of whom he knew personally, to park and put in here at no charge. This neutralized the trespass issue, which was the landowners' biggest complaint. The harassment died down soon after this was done. Imre kept a piece of this land for his company, sold a few similar plots to other outfitters, and transferred the rest of the parcel to the Natural Land Trust. They in turn donated it to the state of Maryland, who built and maintained the paddler and fisherman access here.

In 1999 the state passed legislation requiring cost recovery on all state-owned lands. Efforts by the Maryland DNR to collect fees at Sang Run were met with hostility by paddlers, and very little money found its way to the box. They proposed to station a ranger there and to raise the access price to pay for the ranger! Fortunately, the AW's Jason Robertson stepped in and negotiated a management agreement. It costs AW far less to maintain the site, and we can pass that savings on to you. But even with extensive volunteer help we still have expenses, and we need your donations to make this agreement work. For the past three years the price has remained the same. In 2003 we are asking for donations of $2 per parked car, or $20 for a season pass. Two yeas ago, after reaching our goals, we declared a six-month fee holiday!

This past May John Regan, Wes Macks, and Charlie and Sandy Walbridge brought in their tractors and equipment to mow grass and cut weeds at Sang Run. Jeff Snyder and Jim Warlick helped dig up and replace 10 rotten railroad ties that served as a border for the parking lot, and AW paid for a truckload of gravel to be delivered and spread out.

At the Upper Yough take-out paddlers will once again be using property owned by John Mason and his company, Mountain Surf. Please visit his store and thank him for his generosity, which has caused him some trouble in town. Change facilities were built here several yeas ago by Barry Tuscano and his crew. Please remember that access here is very public, and has been a source of friction in the past. Changing clothes or drinking in public is offensive to local residents and could get you arrested.

We continue to collect donations at an honor box found at the site, and so long as we meet our modest goals we will continue to make Upper Yough paddling one of the best bargains around.

If you want to report problems at either access point, help out, or donate to this project please contact AW's site manager, Charlie Walbridge (Phone: 304-379-9002), or American Whitewater at 1-800-BOAT4AW


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Sultan Relicensing - Upper Yough Access (MD)

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