NORTH BEACH, Md. – The eroding public beach edging this town in northern Calvert County may get a $200,000 lifeline from the state, which residents hope would attract tourists and businesses.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening has proposed pumping the money into replenishing the 600-foot-long beach, which has lost 75 feet in width in some spots to storm erosion. It’s one of the last public beaches on the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, said Richard McIntire, a spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources.
Eddie Richardson, 45, a lifelong resident of North Beach, said about 200 people use the beach on a hot summer day.
Before World War II, the numbers used to be in the thousands, residents said.
The town, about 30 miles from the nation’s capital, was “a bubbling summer resort” in the days when slot machines were allowed and families from the District and other parts of Maryland would visit the night clubs, said Betty Freesland, North Beach’s town clerk.
But the vacation spot, which boasts less than 3,000 year- round residents, has been on a steady decline since gambling was outlawed in the 1960s and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was opened in 1952, making the Eastern Shore more accessible, Freesland said.
Beach erosion hasn’t helped attract tourists.
Between 5,000 and 7,500 cubic yards of sand have been lost in past storms, including last winter’s northeasters and Hurricane Fran of 1996, said Robert Gaudette, director of engineering and construction for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Gaudette said under the proposal, sand from a local gravel pit or another shore location would be added to the beach, restoring it to its former size. He said the entire process would take about two weeks once the money is made available.
Daniel Hartley, the former North Beach mayor who requested the state assistance, said he hoped the project would not only replenish the eroded beach, but attract businesses and tourists.
The Maryland General Assembly is expected to vote on the funding proposal in the next legislative session, which begins in January.
The sand replenishment project is only intended as a short-term solution to the town’s problem. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is surveying the area to determine a long-range plan to prevent further beach erosion, officials said.
The survey began earlier this month, Gaudette said, and should provide preliminary results by the end of the year. He expects to use some of the technology used on Maryland’s 10-mile beach in Ocean City on this project, such as erecting stone structures to lessen wave impact on the shoreline.
Gaudette, who also heads the restoration project for Ocean City, estimates the total cost of both North Beach projects would range between $950,000 and $1.2 million. The town has already received $2 million this year for sidewalk and boardwalk improvement, said Michelle Byrnie, a spokeswoman for Glendening. -30-