This Week’s Creature Feature: Reach the Beach

Turtles, like people, benefited from William Donald Schaefer’s beach-bound determination.

Back in 2001, I joined the Severn River Association in arguing a tidal wetlands case before the Board of Public Works. We were trying to convince the regulators that a living shoreline would be better than a rock revetment on one of the last remaining natural shorelines along the Severn. To make our case, we came armed with school children and turtles.
    The school children, freshly scrubbed from the Samuel Ogle Science Magnet School, explained the importance of beach habitat where many animals came to lay their eggs.
    Suffice it to say, no one — especially a politician — could say no to kids and turtles.
    As he held a squirming diamondback terrapin at arm’s length, State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer — the former mayor of Baltimore, two-term governor of Maryland and all around character — impatiently asked the Tidal Wetlands administrator, “Will this segmented breakwater thing really work?”
    The wetlands man said it would.
    Schaefer then waved his hand in the air like a magic wand and said, “Well now, if we can build this segmented breakwater to protect the shoreline from washing away, and still let the turtles and horseshoe crabs get to the beach, why wouldn’t we do that?”
    Why indeed?
    I closed the show with an appeal that brought down the house and happily won the day.
    “In conclusion, we are asking for your help today, on behalf of all the Bay’s helpless critters that need to, in the words of our illustrious comptroller and former governor, Mr. William Donald Schaefer, reach the beach.”
    Reach the Beach had become Schaefer’s famous refrain in overcoming the endless struggle of trying to get people back and forth to Ocean City without backups at the Bay Bridge. He beamed like a child when he heard it used in defense of the little turtles.