Today, Solomons has developed the reputation of the Keys style resort of the Chesapeake complete with Tiki Bar, rowdy music, and a large fleet of professional charter boats. The easy access to a good harbor on the Patuxent River close to prime Bay fishing locations has been a winning formula.
The recent commercial success of our own waterfront town on the Potomac side, Leonardtown, in St. Mary’s County is far different from Solomons but still dependent upon public waterfront access. Saving the historic Circuit Courthouse function by a politically cooperative effort of State, local, and town leaders fifteen years ago, set in motion a rebirth of the County seat.
Rather than a rowdy resort atmosphere, the Leonardtown Council has opted for historic and classy business and recreational outlets. Fine wines, international foods, kayak expeditions, and jazz music can be found within a short walk in the town. Where in the past, you might walk at your own peril into Sissy’s Bar, now, people jam into Kevin’s Cafe for fresh local seafood from the famous Thompson family.
At the edge of town on the MacIntosh Run is both a winery and a canoe/kayak launch that is upstream from the town docks on Breton Bay. The whole MacIntoch Run property and buildings were purchased following the Courthouse decision for only fourteen thousand dollars by a very wise mayor named Chip Norris who has continually worked tirelessly for the betterment of our growing waterfront town.
Though bounded by water on two sides, Charles County has very few waterfront towns to promote their unique ambiance. On the Potomac, Popes Creek hosts three restaurants that are popular on the weekends, but there is virtually no residential or commercial activity in this area.
On the Patuxent side, Benedict is the only town with any potential of growth in Charles County. Though Benedict was once the major port of the Patuxent River, today, the town has lost another restaurant on the river, the general store is closed, and the gravel roads are rutted with potholes as people flock to more publicized destinations.
Where once people were busy building wooden boats, loading steam ships, canning seafood, harvesting oysters, and prepping for charter fishing expeditons, now, mostly weathered retirement cottages and foreclosed properties are found.
Over ten years ago, I attended a public meeting regarding the oil spill from the Chalk Point Power Plant at the Benedict Volunteer Firehouse. Then, people were concerned with the environmental destruction that had occurred. Two weeks ago, I visited the firehouse for a State sponsored plan to upgrade the town with public water and sewer. During that meeting, environmental concerns and improvements were pushed back as most residents did not want their community to change from its backwater status.
Regardless of the planning sessions, if Governor O’Malley’s oyster sanctuary plan is implemented in the Patuxent River, there will be changes that will come to Benedict. With living oyster reefs returning to the Patuxent, the water will again run clean and clear. The fishing will only improve from what has already been an exceptionally good area to fish in the years since the Atlantic Croakers have returned to the Chesapeake.
Benedict is one of the few places that fishermen on the Mid-Atlantic Coast can safely catch fish year round. Even in mid-winter, good catches of catfish can come from the warm water discharge canal of the Chalk Point power plant a few miles upriver.
The nearby State forested land adjacent to Benedict along Indian Creek is an ideal hunting area for deer and waterfowl. The river is almost always farily calm around Benedict which makes it ideal for skiff rentals, water skiing and jet skiing. Since, commercial crab pots are not allowed in the Pax River, trotlining for crabs is a very popular activity. Also, crabbing from piers is very good during the warmer months
With so many waterfront recreational opportunities so close to the larger towns of Prince Frederick, La Plata, Waldorf, Leonardtown, and Lexington Park, Benedict will become the local mecca for hunters, fishermen, crabbers, and water sports enthusiasts.
Let the unruly rule Solomons, the upper crust can lift their little fingers in Leonardtown. I will be slipping across the County Line at Indian Creek in my twenty foot cuddy cabin Shamrock boat for the deep fried catfish and hush puppies when the next restaurant that used to be Shorter’s Place opens up.
Benedict is going to come back. Bank on it!