Historic Sites in the Port Tobacco River Watershed
Many historic sites are located in the watershed, including the Thomas Stone National Historic Site; St. Ignatius Catholic Church, the longest running Catholic parish in the US; Chapel Point State Park, formerly home to an amusement park serving tourists from Washington, DC; and Port Tobacco, the historic Charles County Seat and deep water port.
The Port Tobacco Watershed is a classic example of the effects that an agricultural period can have on a watershed. During the late 19th century, deforestation caused high sedimentation rates that filled in the tidal wetlands and the port. Today, the tidal portion of the River is not visible from the Port Tobacco Village that previously docked cargo ships hauling tobacco. Sedimentation and navigable channels continue to be of concern to local residents.
More recently, the watershed was affected by a 2002 tornado that not only damaged homes and businesses, but also felled trees in the riparian corridor along its path. Much replanting and rebuilding has taken place since this event.
National Park Service photo
A New Plan Is Adopted for the Port Tobacco Village
A new blueprint for the village of Port Tobacco envisions the historic district as a heritage tourism hub, special events venue, and a community gathering place. The plan includes a restored courthouse green surrounded by reconstructed and historic buildings serving a variety of public uses. The plan also includes constructing a walking/bike trail network and establishing water access to the Village.
The blueprint, finalized in the summer of 2012, is being used as a tool to build consensus among the many stakeholders involved in the Port Tobacco Village. The immediate-term plan is to continue acquisitions of property and to form a working group to work with key stakeholders. Some undeveloped land has already been acquired, and the hope is to acquire Stagg Hall, one of the historic houses in the Village, by December 2013. Starting in January 2014, the Charles County Office of Tourism will assume operation of the Courthouse and another historic building, Burch House, while working closely with the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco as a Friends Group.
Further implementation of the Port Tobacco Village Plan will take place in stages over the next five years. PTRC hopes to help with the planning and implementation of water access to the Village. We will seek grant funding for an engineering feasibility study on restoring the wetlands along the Port Tobacco River south of Route 6, which will enhance Village access and reestablish the wetland. The wetlands will attract wildlife and filter and therefore clean water before it reaches the River.