SMITH ISLAND – For Maryland native Cindy Bradshaw, home is Smith Island, a speck of land resting in the Chesapeake Bay.
But according to Bradshaw, home will have no place in Maryland’s future if state policymakers have their way.
“I would ask them ‘Why don’t they feel ashamed of themselves,'” Bradshaw said. “I really would because don’t we matter enough, and if not, why?”
It’s a common sentiment for islanders because everyone around them argues that they will soon disappear.
Last spring, a five-month Capital News Service investigation found that Smith Island is at risk of disappearing into the Chesapeake’s waters due to a rising bay, an eroding shoreline and violent weather.
After several Smith Island homes were damaged last year by Hurricane Sandy, the state offered $1 million in May to buy out 10 at-risk homes back.
“I was really upset with Maryland for offering us a buyout,” Bradshaw said. “It made us feel like we didn’t matter to our state.”
Maryland’s Secretary of Planning Richard E. Hall disagreed with Bradshaw’s assessment.
“The state’s not abandoning the island,” Hall said. “It is a remote island and a small community, but extremely important.”
Now the island community has a group fighting for what they said is a lack of attention from the state.
Smith Island United was formed by a group of local residents to protest the proposed buyouts.
“If you go to Williamsburg, you see actors portraying a culture that died 300 years ago,” John DelDuo, one of the group’s founders, said. “If you come to Smith Island, you see an intact culture that survived since 1686.”
The group’s efforts paid off.
The state took the buyout plan off the negotiating table.
Hall said his agency will continue to work with the islanders to address rising sea level and erosion.
But residents like Bradshaw believed the state is forgetting about her home.
“I don’t want to see this island gone,” Bradshaw said. “This is home. This will always be home.”