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July 24, 2013

Maryland Dedicates Pier in Memory of Donald Backe

by Martha
Donald Backe

Donald Backe

Backe founded ADA-accessible boating organization

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Board of Public Works today officially named the accessible boating piers at Sandy Point State Park in honor of the late Donald E. Backe, a longtime disability advocate, and esteemed DNR employee and council member.

“Don was a passionate, selfless individual who dedicated his life to helping those with physical disabilities set sail on Maryland’s waters,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “His compassion for others and appreciation for the great outdoors led Donald on a lifelong mission to share his love of sailing and the Chesapeake Bay.”

The newly dedicated Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-accessible launch, at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, allows those with physical challenges to board boats with ease. Backe spent 22 years helping people with disabilities enjoy boating ─ many on these very piers.

Throughout his adult life, Backe was a sailing teacher and an avid competitor. After losing the use of his legs to a serious car accident in 1987, Backe struggled to enjoy the outdoor activities he had once loved. It was his resilient attitude and a desire to help others that led Backe to create Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB) in 1991. CRAB, still alive and thriving today, is a nonprofit organization out of Annapolis that helps those with physical and developmental challenges sail. More information is available at crabsailing.org.

Backe also served as a DNR Disability Advisory Council member for more than 20 years and as DNR Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator during the 1990s. A videotape of Backe’s DNR National Disability Employment Awareness Month presentation is available at dnr.maryland.gov/ofp (bottom of the page).

Among his many sailing accomplishments, Backe was a finalist in the 1995 Paralympics Trials; earned the U.S. Sailing 1995 Marty Luray trophy for contributions to community sailing; and won the 2012 U.S. Sailing and Old Pulteney Maritime Heroes award for his great work on behalf of CRAB and people with disabilities.

The Annapolis resident passed away on April 12, 2013 at the age of 77, and is survived by his wife Lyn.

The three-member Board of Public Works is comprised of Governor O’Malley (chair), Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot. BPW is authorized by the General Assembly to approve major construction and consultant contracts, equipment purchases, property transactions and other procurement actions.

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