Volume 4 Issue 38 1996

Previously inaccessible archives from 1993-1997 now coming on-line, with more each week!
Note that this is working copy (uncorrected text, no photos, including covers).

Burton on the Bay | Way Downstream | Editorial | Letters to the Editor | Earth Journal

This weeks lead stories

Deale The Town with More Boats than People | On the Road: Approaching Home

Lead story

Deale: The Town with More Boats than People

Former White House spokesman and Deale resident Marlin Fitzwater discovered his new town by pulling out a map and drawing an escape line from Washington.

“I needed an outlet, a totally different culture and people not interested in politics. Deale was where my line ended," said Fitzwater, who was press secretary for Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

"I expected it to be overpopulated, but I discovered this wonderful place only 35 minutes to the White House front door.”

Fitzwater must have been driving fast. But he was right about the charms of this semi-hidden town called Deale.

Deale hasn't got a town center or a village square. There's no town hall, no police force, no mayor.

Maybe the closest Deale came to a mayor was Tommy “Muskrat” Greene, its most famous citizen until his death in 1994. In the 1980s, Muskrat achieved international fame for his appetite, earning double billing in the Guinness Book of World Records for his world-class capacity for eating oysters and snails.

Deale hasn’t much changed since the heyday of Muskrat. It just ambles along Route 256 from a bit west of Tracey’s Creek, across the bridge, along Deale Road to the next bridge across Rockhold Creek, then left on Deale-Churchton Road, and after a mile or two, it just sort of stops.

The town clings to Chesapeake Bay and four creeks — from the south, Tracey’s Creek, Rockhold Creek, Parker’s Creek and Carr Creek, conforming itself to their shape. To understand Deale is to know that the road doesn't really lead here. Rts. 2 and 4 bisect the peninsula of land between the Bay and the Patuxent but don't take people to Deale. Rt. 50 and the east-west arteries connect the world to Annapolis. But you have to want to be in Deale because no big road leads there.

Perhaps that is why Deale business sprawls haphazardly like a frontier town along right-angled Rt. 256. There are, all in their own buildings, three churches (Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist), a thriving Elk’s Club, a friendly, small-town post office, a volunteer fire department, an excellent branch library, and a newly restored elementary school. There’s are two banks; an IGA grocery and a 7-Eleven; three liquor stores, including one with the historic name Captain Kidds; several gas stations that also repair and sometimes sell auto.

Divided among aging strip malls, self-respecting office complexes, and well-maintained single buildings are the mainstays you'd expect in a small town: a hardware store, a paint store, an office supply store, two video rental stores, a dry cleaner and a hair dresser. Deale boasts several restaurants and snack shops, including the well-known Happy Harbor, Skipper’s Pier and — really over the bridge in Tracey’s Creek — Bobby D's. Happy Harbor, where Muskrat used to hold forth, is as close to a town center as Deale gets.

Stuck in Time?

Nearly 20 years ago, Deale had fewer than 2,000 people. And according to 1995 Market Research figures, Deale itself — which is defined by the Census Bureau as the 20751 zip code — had a population of 1,895: 52 people more than 1990.

Given worries about development, the Market Research projections for the future might come as a surprise. Using historical data and other factors, the research company predicts that in the year 2000, Deale's population will decline by about 50 people.

These numbers are somewhat deceptive given the growth of nearby communities. Nonetheless, Deale's slow growth has been a consistent trait over the years since the community was born as an oysterman's haven. So are its rough edges, matching the hearty Eastern Shore types that provided its stock.

According to local histories, the earliest mention of the area in the Maryland Hall of Records was 1659, when Englishman Richard Gott marked off 600 acres and called it Rams Gott Swamp. The land had passed through several hands by the time James Deale purchased it in the 1700s. But it didn't get the name Deale until around 1900, when postmaster John Leatherbury called it Deale, after his mother, instead of Cedar Grove.

Cecil H. Marshall recalls in his hand-written history of Deale how in the 1850s watermen traveled from the Eastern Shore to a huge, natural oyster bar called Bay Shore Bar. About 10 of those families settled in that era on Parker's Island, which began washing away near the turn of the century. With their land disappearing, some of these families moved a short distance to the Deale area. Marshall’s grandfather, William Samuel Marshall, was one of those settlers.

Deale's first post office was opened in 1908, about 16 years after the original Cedar Grove Church was built with lumber hauled from Churchton by ox-cart. The first electric lines came to Deale around 1930 while sewers were dug starting in the late 1970s.

In Deale, even as we approach the year 2000, change is measured in decades.

Up with the Crabbers

The day starts early in Deale. Up before the sun are watermen. Spring through fall, it’s crabbers going out; fall through spring, it’s oystermen.

“One of the ways I can tell I’m not in Washington anymore is the watermen and crab boats out at 5 or 6am. You can hear them starting their engines from miles away,” noted Fitzwater, who moved into his new Bayfront home just in time for Hurricane Fran.

Nowadays many of those watermen — especially oystermen — split their time with other jobs where the paycheck’s a surer thing.

The Collins family, for example, “had been oystering forever”— until two years ago, when Keith “Bootie” Collins pulled out. “There’s not much money in oystering anymore with the cost of gas and prices down from imported oysters from down south,” says he.

“But,” he added, “I’ve still got my hand in the water.”

Collins switched to a more abundant species, alewives, which he harvests in pond nets for crab bait. He supplements his income working with his father, retired oysterman Edward “Boots” Collins, on the marine railway — a boat trailer on railway tracks — hauling boats land to paint their bottoms. About half their business is pleasure boats, and about half fishing boats.

Up nearly as early are the fishermen, captains and mates readying their boats at Happy Harbor or Bobby D’s.

Many of this morning tide make time for breakfast at Happy Harbor. Owner Barbara Sturgell opens at 6am to fill the fishermen with coffee, creamed chipped beef on toast, pancakes, eggs and scrapple. The bar — open at that hour, too — is about as busy as the restaurant.

Another tide of early risers wakes up over coffee at the 7-Eleven, down the road where routes 256 and 258 meet. They fill their big styrofoam cups from fresh-brewed pots and, since a 7-Eleven is a carry-out with no chairs, head out to sit on the brick ledge of the store’s big picture windows. It’s not quite a cafe, but Deale’s not quite a town.

Deale is like an iceberg, with more than meets the eye below the surface. And the town keeps its secrets well. It’s not scandal were talking about — though Deale has its share of secrets of that sort, including, rumor has it, a crackhouse or two.

Deale’s secret is the quiet lives of its people. That’s the kind of secret you won’t know if you come to the town only on business, or to eat out, or to play pool at Bobby D’s or Billy Jac’s. Or even as a weekend boater.

At Home in Deale: Old Style and New

Look twice as you drive Rt. 256 and, roadside or down unobtrusive lanes, you’ll see the solid, well-kept houses of people who have lived here generations, people for whom Deale is simply home.

Turn toward the water, down Deale Beach Road or Mimosa Cove or Parker’s Creek Road or Masons Beach Road or Drum Point Road. There, in houses running toward the water, you’ll find another citizenry of Deale — people for whom the water is a companion, not a working partner. Here are office workers and police officers, doctors and lawyers, sea captains and policy makers, writers and artists, massage therapists and acupuncturists. Some retired to Deale; others commute, often to Washington. Still others, having fallen under the Bay’s spell, work from their Deale homes. Through them, Deale is increasingly joined to the wider world.

Whether they moved in last month or a decades ago, a lot of people here tell the same story.

Crabs and the country setting lured community activist

Patricia O’Brien and her husband — both of whom worked in Washington — from Hyattsville in 1963. Settling on the waterfront in Mason’s Beach, she organized the community to get federal funding to bring sewers to Deale. septic tanks was health hazard in area of such high water table. “The residents were really begging. With such a high water table, septic tanks were a health hazard. You had to throw your dishwater out the window and ask visitors not to flush the toilets too often,” O’Brien remembers.

This week, O’Brien is seeking Federal Emergency Management Administration money to repair Hurricane Fran’s Bayfront damage. If things don’t change much, that, says O’Brien, is fine with most Dealites: “I think people like it the way it is down here.”

Decade after decade, the same story is retold.

Retired entrepreneur Joe Tuscano first visited Deale in 1979, brought down from Washington by a friend. “Immediately that day I when to a realtor. I said, ‘If you can find me some place quiet down here, I’d like to live here,’ ” he remembers. “I bought the first place I saw. It was quietly tucked away in corner. I was not struck by the architecture or the town itself. But something about the natural beauty really captured my imagination.”

If Deale’s rustic appeal is a steady beacon, it is not changeless, for each generation arrives as freshly as a new tide. O’Brien’s husband, the late John T. “Obie” O’Brien, was a D.C. police detective. Tuscano’s wife, newcomer Christine Adkins, is a California acupuncturist trained in Japan who practices her Oriental healing art in Deale.

Maybe newcomers like this explain why, “mail volume has at least doubled in the last 25 years,” according to Donna Lester, who’s worked that long at the Deale Post Office. “Tripled,” guesses Pat Pruitt, postmaster since 1993 at Deale where they know you by name.

The Boating Life

Seven marinas have turned the banks of Tracey’s Creek and Rockhold Creek, Deale’s twin waterways, into a self-contained city of boats. Here are moored 1400 to 1500 boats; hundreds more boats are trailered in Deale.

Like the people, the boats of Deale come in all sorts. The first boats you see, entering from Chesapeake Bay, are two sunken wrecks.

Then as you head north in Rockhold Creek, you pass two up-market marinas, Shipwright Harbor and Herrington Harbour North. Herrington alone is one of the largest yacht yards on the East Coast.

Here the boats are 35-, 40- and 45-foot sailboats; auxiliary sloops, cutters, ketches and yawls, these are ocean-going yachts with radar, GPSs, wind-steering autohelms and values up the mid-six figures — though, oddly, many never leave Chesapeake Bay. Also in these marinas berth more than the usual quota of trawler yachts — slow, stately, roomy and more seaworthy than most other power yachts. Many of these are up-scale Albins. It’s no coincidence that here too is one of the largest Albin dealers in the country, Wingfield Yachts.

Wingfield owner Bruce Wilson is a New Zealander who, with his wife Mary Ann, lives in Alexandria, Virginia. For them, Deale is simply where the boats are. “Boats,” says Wilson, “is critical to the well-being of Deale, with sales, service, dockage and chartering providing by far the town’s major income source.”

Farther up the creek, the boats get a bit smaller, perhaps less spruce. Near the town dock, there’s a sort of elephant graveyard for tired old boats that just couldn’t be bother to remain afloat any longer. The Rt. 256 fixed bridge limits air draft so the boats above the bridge are, of necessity, smaller. Or at least lower, since Gates and Harbor Cove Marinas sell and berth many power boats in the big, fast, flashy class, as well as fishing boats.

Servicing this diverse fleet with secure dockage, repairs, parts and service, and winter storage is a business community at least as large as that which serves the town. Boaters have their pick of mechanics, haulers, dry docks and boatels, canvas makers, cabinet makers, fiberglass repairers, boat lift dealers, boat letterers and boat cleaners.

One of Deale’s marine workers is Christine Germann, manager of Sandpiper Marine Canvas, which designs, sews and installs all sorts of marine canvas as well as welding pipe into towers. Germann, from up the road in Lothian, is a career employee, having worked her way up in nine and a half years from, she says, “a peon.” The business has grown too, but very few of its customers live in Dale. Suburban Virginia supplies almost half of them.

That’s the same pattern seen through older eyes by Robert Kidd, service manager at Shipwright Harbor Marina. Kidd — whose father, an air force captain, was Deale’s original “Captain Kidd” — was born and raised on 97 acres now occupied by Herrington Harbour Marina. Bobby D’s was then Duke’s Tavern.

“Twenty-five years ago, the boats in Deale were commercial. Oyster, clam and crab boats,” says Kidd. “Now the oyster and clam bed are a fraction of their former selves, and most of the boats are pleasure boats. Relatively few are locally owned. The majority belong to urban people from metropolitan Washington.”

In “town and gown” fashion, Deale’s boaters and townspeople don’t much mix. In the words of Wingfield’s Bruce Wilson: “The hundreds of people who keep their boats at the marinas in Deale have very little interaction with the town. A dinner at Bobby D’s perhaps, before the drive back to Washington.”

That, says Wilson, is because Deale doesn’t try hard enough. “Competing towns on both sides of the Bay and elsewhere along the Coast, offer restaurants, pubs, inns and shops within easy walking distance. The visiting yachtsman is drawn into town from the docks by landscaping, sidewalks and so on.”

There's no town center to walk to in Deale. Nor are there buses, nor any means but a mostly pleasure water taxi to get anywhere else if you don't have a car or bicycle.

Still, some bridge the gap, living aboard in Deale. Since April, Navy Lt. Michael “Jake” Johansson has commuted from his 32-Columbia sloop, Per Diem, to the Pentagon. “Deale is full of friendly people willing to lend a hand or an ear,” said Johansson. On his dock on Tracey’s Creek at 7pm on a summer evening, she encompassed time and place as he explained why he lives in Deale. “Quiet like this is hard to find. And worth searching for. I’m not sure I’d want to live here for the rest of my life. But for now, I really dig Deale.”

—M.L. Faunce and Kimbra Cutlip contributed to this story.

What’s to Dig in Deale?

See for yourself this what’s to dig in Deale this weekend when the second Deale Boat Show give you a good excuse to visit the town with as many boats as people. Area dealers will display new and used boats — from fast little runabouts through fishing boats to luxury yachts. Marine service providers will also be on hand, and there’ll be lots to eat.

The Deale show is, in the best sense of the word, the country cousin of the giant Annapolis Sail and Power Boat Shows coming up next month. The bustle rises to just the right level of excitement, and so do crowds: you can board and browse most boats with neither squeeze nor chagrin.

The show runs Saturday and Sunday September 21 and 22 from 10am to 6pm in the yard in Herrington Harbour North (which is actually just across the creek in Tracey’s Creek, not in Deale).

“Deale has a lot to offer as an emerging recreational boating center,” said the show’s organizer, Rich Johnson, of Clipper Bay Yachts. “We’d like everybody to see just how much we have to offer.”

Deale: The Fishing Sport’s Best-Kept Secret

In many ways, Deale the fishing center resembles Deale the town: undeveloped and undiscovered.

Deale lacks bright lights, busy pace and asphalt. Deale doesn't have the lodges and the hotel rooms of Eastern Shore fishing haunts. Nor does Deale get the press attention of some of fishing havens tied into the old-boy network along the Chesapeake.

What Deale has that's golden is proximity. It’s the closest fishing port to the Washington metropolitan area and perhaps the best port in proximity to Baltimore. It has restaurants, places to gear up and plenty of knowledgeable charter captains. It has a thriving boating community, including Tri-State Marine, a premier regional fishing boat dealer.

Most important of all, Deale has fish, especially this time of year. The 28 or so charterboats docked along Rockhold Creek — 14 of them behind Happy Harbor restaurant — have a short run to Herring Bay, to Brownie's Hill and the old Poplar Island Gaslight Buoy. Oyster bars, ledges and drop-offs make this grounds some of the most productive in the Middle Bay.

"For anybody who wants to go out there and troll, there's big fish to be had and plenty of smaller ones, too," says Capt. George Prenant, who operates Stormy Petrel out of Deale.

Prenant's gravely voice is a fixture on the CBs in the Herring Bay grounds as he directs fellow-captains and boaters to schools of fish. Prenant, 61, has run charters out of Deale since 1978, and he knows the evolution of Deale as well as he knows the fish.

"You have a lot of rundown houses here and no sidewalks. It's really a quaint place, and a lot of people look for that rustic type of environment," said Prenant.

Yet not as many people fish out of Deale as you would expect, particularly on weekdays, when the absence of boat traffic makes fishing the most desirable. In some ways, Deale remains the "secret port" of the Chesapeake.

Part of the reason is that Deale's fishing port so closely resembles the town in clinging to its old ways. People in Deale know they have something special and many don't want world to find out. Another reason is that some of the paying fishing crowd from cities still travels on old information.

In the middle-to-late 1980s, the Chesapeake Bay was loaded with huge bluefish. But runs of the 10-pound-plus specimens all but stopped after the 1989 season because of changing migration patterns, the return of bluefish or perhaps overfishing along the East Coast.

Bay-doubters stuck in a time warp may not understand that the rockfish are more plentiful now in the Bay than at anytime in decades. "Snapper" blues and Spanish mackerel fishing has been strong, and this season has provided the best croaker fishing in memory, not to mention good catches of highly edible sea trout in both gray and spotted varieties.

The Bay is reviving as what curmudgeon newspaperman H.L. Mencken once called "the world's greatest protein factory."

And Deale is where to jump in. As Prenant put it: "There's some huge, beautiful fish to be had."

—Bill Lambrecht

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On the Road: Approaching Home

This is the ninth dispatch from correspondent Christian Wagley, as he approaches the end of his 1,500 mile bicycle journey from Pensacola Florida to his home in Crofton.

Virginia’s Eastern Shore — After the ferry ride to quaint village of Ocracoke, N.C., I spent three difficult days fighting wind and weather on the way up North Carolina’s Outer Banks. First the rain drenched me; then the skies cleared and the strong north wind made the ride frustratingly slow.

I struggled through the weather among the isolated villages around Cape Hatteras, known to many by its tall black and white stripped lighthouse.

The North Carolina coast is a biological crossroads for the many species of plants and animals that reach the limits of their range here. Palm trees disappear north of Cape Fear, and I’m no longer swarmed on by fire ants when I lie in the grass to rest. On the seaside dunes, the tall sea oats with their large graceful seed heads are gradually replaced by the shorter American beach grass.

The dunes stretching along the many miles of pristine natural seashore here are exceptionally tall, well defined and lush with grasses and shrubs. But what looks like nature’s handiwork was actually constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, back when it was believed that beaches needed to be stabilized. Geologists have since learned that these tall, stabilizing dunes actually behave like seawalls, increasing erosion and interfering with the natural dynamics that sustain these ribbons of sand.

After a pickup ride across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel, at the mouth of the Bay, I arrived in Virginia’s Eastern Shore, a place so remote and forgotten by some that it is sometimes left off maps of Virginia. Now this sometimes forgotten area is setting a world standard in conservation and sustainable development.

This narrow southern tip of Delmarva has changed little in the past 100 years, with many miles of field planted in soybeans and corn broken by small towns — usually a main street of shops surrounded by quiet streets of old homes. Most of the Atlantic barrier islands and part of the mainland — 54,0000 acres of beaches, wetland and farms — are owned by the Nature Conservancy the national conservation organization that buys and preserves unique natural areas.

But the Conservancy decided to try a different approach here in its Virginia coast preserve, an approach that includes people as part of preserving the area’s cultural and natural resources.

“People are part of this world, too, and we’ve got to figure out how to live with our environment,” Virginia Coast environmental director John Hall told me.

Realizing that this economically depressed region needed economic development, but that unwise development would threaten the traditional livelihoods of farming and fishing as well as the rich natural resources, the Conservancy pushed for sustainable development, that is development that provides decent jobs without destroying the area’s natural resources.

The various stakeholders working to preserve this large “working ecosystem” of Virginia’s Eastern Shore — government agencies, private organizations and concerned citizens — have worked over the last several years to find common ground in this initiative. Now the results are starting to come in.

The new Virginia’s Eastern Shore Corporation is developing sustainable such businesses as local arts and crafts, packaged foods, and ecotourism, which blends learning about local history and natural resources with activities such as bicycling and sea kayaking.

In October, ground will be broken in Cape Charles for a new sustainable technology industrial park, in which one industry’s waste products may be utilized by other industries on site, thereby reducing pollution. The park’s first tenant will be a Swiss solar energy company.

These effort will be followed closely to see if sustainable development will really work — and if the lesson learned can be applied elsewhere. The excitement of the people promoting these efforts and support shown by the local population gives great hope that this area may look much the same in 50 years as it does now, with humans living and thriving alongside the richest natural habitat left on the East Coast.

—Christian Wagley

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Dock of the Bay

Local Produce — Going, Going, Gone in Calvert County

The sign “local” on the produce stands triggers images of luscious red tomatoes, corn kernels dripping with dew and sugary sweet melons — all grown in neighboring fields.

But how is this local corn in so early? Why does this stand have watermelons in May? Are these hothouse tomatoes? What does local mean anyway?

Ask the assistant produce manager at Safeway and he'll say, "We buy local, the little signs on the bins tell you local."

I say, “Do you mean in the county?"

He says, “I mean local: Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland, Southern Maryland. We try to buy in the county if we can."

If you really want county-grown fruits and vegetables, you’ve got two choices: roadside farmer's stand or county farmers' markets. Anne Arundel and Calvert County farmers markets are faring very differently this year.

Calvert has, for the first time this year, tried to supported two farmers' market, the four-year-old market near Adam's Rib in Prince Frederick and the year-old market behind the firehouse in Dunkirk.

If you want to shop at either, you'd better be fast. Most vendors have pulled out, discouraged by lack of sales. It's a "dying market," according to market master Sunny Wainwright. "The local farmers who sell their produce at the market numbered 14 in 1992. This season it dwindled to four or five."

Why can’t a county that prides itself on being country support farming families?

Listen to Calvert County residents and you hear the answer:

• I live in Dunkirk but I didn't know there was a farmer's market there. • If it's on the wrong side of the road, I don't have the time to make a U-turn."

• I'm just looking at the quality. I don't care where its grown.

Calvert County farmers market opened in 1992 at the Walmart in Prince Frederick. The next year it moved to next to Adam's Rib, south of Prince Frederick, where owner Richard Fischer built the market a barn with a 15-year rent-free lease. Every year since the move, sales have decreased and the number of farmers dropped.

The market association has promoted itself with handouts, banners, newspaper advertisements and signs, according to Wainwright and Marge Ratliff, her partner in Nu Venture Gardens. They’ve received limited funding from Calvert County’s Department of Economic Development and the Maryland Department of Agriculture. “Whatever we tried didn’t seem to help,” Wainwright laments.

Faced with losing the farmers’ market, Calvert County Commissioner Linda Kelley promises a brainstorming session in October. "Farming is a critical part of this county. If we don't support it, we will lose the farm community and we'll all lose," says Kelley.

In which case local may need redefining.

How are Anne Arundel County’s farmers’ markets faring? You’ll find out next week.

—Carol Glover

Clean Green This Fall

When you clean out your attic or basement this fall, you can help keep our world a little cleaner, too.

If you live in Anne Arundel County, you can dump your nasty chemicals at Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Day with a cleaner conscience. Batteries, cleaners, lighter fluid and fluorescent lights, may be well sealed when thrown away, but their containers will be destroyed over time, letting the stuff inside into the environment. The lead from old paint and batteries can cause developmental disabilities in children.

Products with the words flammable, poisonous and toxic on their labels all need careful disposal. Leaving toxics in their original containers will help the County know how best to get rid of each. Some will be incinerated; some buried in chemically safe, sealed landfills; and some — like oil-based paint and batteries — recycled.

Show up with your toxics on Saturday, September 28 from 9am to 3pm at the Western District Center, 1427 Ducken Street, behind the Odenton Fire Station.

If you live in Calvert County, you can save yourself some money and the county some landfill space. Instead of throwing away that blender with the missing part, use the County’s new Reuse Directory.

The 16-page free directory, published by the County Department of Public Works, Bureau of Solid Waste, will be distributed by the end of October. Each of its chapters will offer tips on how to become more environmentally friendly, such as—

• Become a better consumer (buy or rent dishes instead of using disposable ones);

• Reuse items (buy a new blender part);

• Recycle (as 8,000 Calvert residents are already doing);

• Avoid hazardous chemicals in house cleaning (baking soda and vinegar can clean almost anything);

• Donate items you no longer need (the directory will advise, for example, where to give old clothing).

The Directory’s goal, according to county recycling coordinator Steve Kullen, is “to keep things out of the landfill.” Similar directories are already used by Charles, St. Mary’s and Montgomery counties.

With one County landfill already capped, the new Directory could help extend the life on the county’s remaining landfill. Public works’ Dan Williams expects a 15 to 18 percent reduction of landfill space, adding one year of landfill life for every four years the program is in effect.

But finding alternatives hasn’t been easy. First every company with a county business license was surveyed. Next the county turned to the Yellow Pages, and finally took to the road to enlist businesses. Even so, some categories have stayed empty. Know anybody who will repair guitars?

—Anne Bryant

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Will Highway Administration Do the Right Thing?

One of the worst feelings is suffering the consequences of acting too late.

We may be on the verge of such a feeling with a historic pond in southern Anne Arundel County that has been a fixture on our landscape and maps since before the days of pirates.

You may know this pond, which is situated at Fairhaven between land known as The Cliffs and The Flats. It’s a broad, serene haven of 30 acres or more, full of crabs, turtles, aquatic life and birds. Visiting swans will encamp here in about six weeks when they arrive from the north.

You may have seen state trucks near the pond fixing Rt. 423, which collapsed during Fran’s flooding.

Those state trucks ought to stick around. Sadly, this pond is dying because of shoddy engineering.

In 1988, the State Highway Administration replaced the bridge between the Chesapeake Bay and the pond. For whatever reason, the state constructed a 40-foot-long bridge over a 60-foot channel. The result is a funnel that fills the pond without silt. Without proper drainage, the silt stays.

The tragedy was in the making for years, partly because of an unwise seawall across the road. But the new bridge is hastening the problem. Today a canoe barely can traverse a body of water where pirate schooners used to hide. Ten feet of shoreline has disappeared since 1988.

If things keep going, the Fairhaven pond soon may be little more than a field of phragmites.

In the best of worlds, the Highway Administration would build a better bridge. This isn't going to happen because of cost.

But the state might yet preserve this idyllic pond with remedial engineering. The first task is installing culverts to allow adequate drainage.

A local campaign has begun and Sen. Mike Miller and Del. George Owings III have agreed to help. We thank them for their assistance and we urge the state to move swiftly to save this historic pond from strangulation.

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Letters to the Editor

Away from Suburbs: A Step in the Right Direction

Dear New Bay Times~Weekly:

I read with great interest your articles about development in the Chesapeake Bay region. I do not have a lot of statistics to back up my beliefs, but I think Thomas Hylton is on target with most of his assertions about the suburbs. I grew up in a suburb and live in one now (a situation which I plan to remedy as soon as possible). I have found suburbs to be a rather sterile environment where it is necessary to drive to nearly everything.

I feel that suburbs are unhealthy for people and the environment. For one thing, as more people move to the suburbs, automobile traffic increases. This not only causes more pollution but also results in more fatalities on our highways. People drive more and more aggressively as traffic increases, and statistically more accidents are caused by aggressive driving these days than by drunk driving.

I think that it should be very expensive for people to build and live away from town centers unless they make their living off the land. After all, it costs more to provide services such as snow removal to these areas. People who live in towns and cities, on the other hand, should get some sort of tax break as should businesses that locate in cities.

Another solution to the problem of suburban sprawl would be to set aside more protected areas and park land. The Annapolis area really doesn't have many green areas. I realize this doesn't bring in as much revenue as perhaps a strip mall would, but we must look ahead to the future and stop thinking just about ourselves and the almighty dollar. It is scary to consider what might be left for future generations if we don't change these patterns.

I think your paper has made a step in the right direction by addressing these critical issues.

—Thea Warner, Annapolis

No Fan of Hoyer

Dear New Bay Times~Weekly:

I read the article in “Dock of the Bay” (Aug. 15-21) concerning Rep. Steny Hoyer. Mr. Hoyer talks like a “New Democrat,” one who is not so concerned with continuing the failed welfare state that thrived under his leadership for 14 years as he and the Democrats went on a spending spree.

It was Mr. Hoyer and his fellow liberal Democrats who rank up a $5 trillion national debt. The presidents during Mr. Hoyer’s tenure also share some of the blame for not submitting balanced budgets to Congress, but Mr. Hoyer and his fellow Democrats would have laughed them out of town if Mr. Reagan or Mr. Bush had done so.

Mr. Hoyer wants to sound tough by implying that some welfare recipients are “freeloaders” since he finally decided to support a welfare reform bill after 16 years in office. Yes, there is fraud and abuse. But when was the last time Mr. Hoyer received income that didn’t come from hard-working taxpayers?

—John Douglas Parran, St. Leonard

Department of Corrections

September 12-18’s cover story, “The Lure of Fishing,” should have identified Andy Brown as a naturalist with the Natural Resources Division of Calvert County.

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Fishing with the Big Dogs

As governors go, Glendening is a good fisherman

The first thing Gov. Parris Glendening did aboard Capt. Bunky Connor's charterboat Kathy C was catch two rockfish, both of which went back into the Chesapeake Bay at Chinese Muds off the mouth of the Patuxent. Then he couldn't wait to spread the good news. The official news conference wasn't scheduled for another two hours, but the press was anxious to learn more news about rock than that nine came aboard that day.

The Rock of the Year Index, the governor told us, was an astonishing 59.3, a record. At 50 points above last year's tally, the fish enjoyed a great spawning year. But wisely the guv cautioned against expecting any quick response in easing regulations. Too early, he said. And he was right.

What this does mean is that in three and a half or four and a half years, this class of stripers will be back in the Chesapeake in keepable size. Think of fishing as the Year 2000 comes. Probably Glendening — who likes to wet a line — will be fishing those rock, and possibly as a governor in his second term.

Guv on a Boat

Since 1956, I've fished with all the Maryland governors with one exception, and Glendening rates high as a fishing companion. He's fun to be with on a boat.

He has a great sense of humor, mingling easily even though there were nearly 20 on the boat that day, mostly newsmen and members of his staff. He has a genuine appreciation of the sport and likes to talk about it. He shares many trips with his son Raymond, 16, sometimes for catfish, other times for anything from perch to rock, from Florida to Cape Cod.

The governor handles a rod nicely. Though he has a tendency to tighten a drag as soon as he starts cranking the reel, he can be forgiven for that. This day the lures were mostly Parachute rigs, which admittedly catch fish but have the feel or reeling in a pair of chest waders full of water. The captain chose the lures; he wanted to catch fish for the pols and the media.

And catch we did, nine rock in an hour and a half, seven of them keepers. Yeah, I know the media reported eight fish, but I kept count. The guv's last fish came on a straight bucktail with soft plastic Sassy Shad added, and it was his biggest — nearly 28 inches long.

The governor released his first two fish though one was legal, but the biggie he kept along with another lunker to show the media at the shoreside press conference.

He held his rod high, kept his eyes on the line and fish, gave way when the mate grabbed the leader, and in between catches talked fishing, the Bay and the environment. He answered questions candidly, and newsmen weren't about to bring up the Baltimore Ravens. It was the kind of a day for fun and celebration. As it should be. Am I getting mellow, or what?

… and Guvs Before Him

Gov. Ted McKeldin was known for his enthusiasm for everything he did (who can forget his GOP presidential nomination speech of Dwight David Eisenhower?). But when it came to fishing, he outdid himself.

Gov. Marvin Mandel was a serious fisherman, and a good one. Gov. Millard Tawes enjoyed fishing because he liked the water. Gov. Charles Terry of Delaware went fishing to be one of the boys. Gov. Spiro Agnew?

No assessment of Spiro; he chickened out at the last minute on an offshore marlin trip because ocean waters were a bit bouncy — and he thought things would be less hostile on the Ocean City golf course. I hope his scorecard carried a lot of bogies.

Thankfully, the governors with whom I have fished the past 40 years understood and accepted weather conditions, which made it easier for me on the days when catches were disappointing. Also prompted them to better appreciate their catches on better days.

In a round-about way, we can thank fishing in part for the creation of Susquehanna State Park. The late guide Joe Wolney of BelAir had an ulterior motive when he lured Ted McKeldin to the Susky in the late 1950s. He wanted to preserve the Harford County side of the river for recreation, and what better way than show the governor its pristine shoreline? It worked. Today, we have Susquehanna State Park, a tribute to both Wolney and McKeldin.

Governors McKeldin and Tawes

McKeldin was the kind of guy one enjoyed on a fishing trip. Not that technically he was a good fisherman; he wasn't. But he enjoyed to the maximum every minute on the water.

When he hooked a fish, he bellowed his excitement, and the vocal chorus continued until the fish was in the ice chest. He loved fishing and hunting, but the former was his sport. He never turned an invite down; he found a way to work it into his busy schedule.

Often, it was even better when he did the inviting. His trips were on the state yacht Potomac, previously used for fishing and cruising by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Breakfast on the old but stately Potomac was an experience. Scrambled eggs, toast, bacon and ham heaped far above the table, before switching to a Tidewater Fisheries Commission patrol boat to fish. I recall once when he used grapes from the breakfast table for bait; naturally didn't they catch anything, but he had fun experimenting.

We made several trips on the charterboat Francee, skippered by legendary gruff Capt. Charlie Ford, who was pretty much acknowledged to be the best on the Chesapeake in the '50s and '60s. If you didn't take fishing seriously, Charlie would strongly suggest heading back to the docks. He wasn't much for frivolity, nor did he care how important his fishermen were back on dry land. With him you came to fish, catch fish, and the more the better. Nothing else.

But even Charlie couldn't put the lid on the governor's free-wheeling enthusiasm, and eventually came to accept, if not, appreciate it. Something good for all fishermen came of that relationship.

The use of electronics in locating fish was banned in Maryland at the time for fear they would make catching too easy. But everyone used electronics ostensibly to check water depths for safe navigation.

The governor watched Charlie study the electronic flasher, asked about it, and Charlie showed him flashes that meant fish. Then added sarcastically that legally we couldn't try to catch them. "Ridiculous," cried the governor, "let's try." We did, and we caught. Soon the electronic ban was no longer Maryland law.

Ted McKeldin will be remembered in this corner as one of the most perfect fishing partners one could have — even when it meant heading for the water at 4am following a night where his schedule kept him busy until midnight. He might nap, but not when the fish were biting. What energy.

Millard Tawes was laid back, way back. He was quiet on a boat though he obviously enjoyed being there and catching. The only visible thrill he had when landing a marlin in a Governor's Tournament in the Atlantic was a broad smile across his face.

One got the impression that to him, fishing was a personal pleasure. He was a pleasure to have aboard. Though from Crisfield, a commercial and sports fishing community, he wasn't into technicalities and details. He just enjoyed the being away from it all on the water.

Governors Terry, of Delaware, Mandell and Agnew

As governor of Delaware involved with his counterparts in Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia to promote Atlantic Ocean fishing from those four states, the late Charles Terry participated in a series of Governor's Cup Challenge matches. He didn't claim to being much of a fisherman in the traditional way, but enjoyed fishermen, their stories and their parties.

He would party late with the press, swap stories and go drink for drink with the best of us. Yet he would be the first at the docks in the morning. One wild day on the Atlantic, when most other boats had scrubbed the search for marlin, he insisted the trip planned with the late Ronnie Harrison and me proceed.

He was a portly gent, and I recall him glued to his seat at the stern as waves washed across the cockpit and the boat rolled vigorously in high seas. His usual smile never once faded.

When we returned, I mentioned that grin and asked how he could enjoy himself on such a day — when we saw no signs of fish. "It might have been rough out there, but not as bad as dealing with the damned bureaucracy," he responded wryly.

Marvin Mandel was, and I presume still is, a studious and knowledgeable fisherman. No fanfare, just plain fishing, the same when it came to hunting. He enjoyed the out of doors and its resources, enjoyment reflected in the conservation record of his administration.

He was quiet and involved when fighting a fish or shooting a goose; he was in it for the sport. He shared equally the pleasure and the discomforts, rough waters when fishing and cold blustery days when hunting. And he had a keen sense of humor.

When Mandel and I were fishing marlin off Ocean City once a Baltimore County senator speculated we couldn't possibly catch much. "With you two puffing on your pipes continually, no one can see a fish through the smoke screen," the senator said. That day, he was right.

Spiro Agnew the golfer had an aide call one day to set up an offshore marlin trip, which he decided against practically at the last minute as the Atlantic got bumpy. Attorney General Bill Burch was vacationing in Ocean City at the time, so I invited him to take Agnew's place. Primarily a surf fisherman, Burch never hesitated when an opportunity to go fishing came up, we went, and he landed one of the biggest marlin of the season. Serves Spiro right.

Biggest Fish of All

And while on pols with poles, the ideal fishing companion is George Bush, who while president in 1992 gave me the best retirement (from the Sun) present ever: an invitation to take him bass'n on the Potomac. We met at 5am at the White House. He carried his own rods and tackle, decided to keep the commitment despite winds at better than 30 knots and temperatures cold enough to freeze the eyelets of rods.

We didn't thaw out until we enjoyed a late lunch at the White House, but we each had taken one bass. He was knowledgeable about angling, a good caster, considerate and upbeat. Among the high points of the day was his signing a dollar bill to satisfy the bet we made for the biggest fish. It's framed on my wall.

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Way Downstream...

From Boston comes more news of the greening of the hotel business. The Park Plaza Hotel, which markets itself as "Boston's Eco-Logical Travel Alternative" is turning old linens into aprons and plush animals and recycling laundry water.

The hotel offers a special "Boston Naturally" weekend in which guests find canvas knapsacks, walking maps of the city and free public-transit passes on their bed. It's paying off, too. Simply by installing energy efficient windows, the Park Plaza saved $84,000 last year ...

Near Key West, the U.S. Coast Guard went to the rescue of a killer whale last week. What they found was a four-foot-long inflatable Orca with the word Shamu printed on its side ...

Our Creature Feature this week comes to us from the Midwest, where several businesses have products that might seem odd to some people. In St. Louis, Ken Miller, owner of two garden stores, is charging $32 to $42 for a "bag o' bugs" — live insects for organic farmers who are using them as predators to rid their crops of unwanted pests.

Meanwhile, in Warrenville, Ill., Butterfield Gardens owner Floyd Rogers had an even more creative idea: the Bug-of-the-Month Club, in which subscribers get a new insect each month during spring and summer. Said Rogers: "People are coming out of the woodwork to get them."

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Earth Journal


“Copperheads are gregarious snakes,” says naturalist Andy Brown at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp. “This time of year they gather, mate and give birth.”

So Brown gets a lot of copperhead sighting reports this time of year. People often mistake the northern water snake for a copperhead because of its similar coloring, but they’re not all wrong. Copperheads are widely disbursed in the area. But that need be no cause for worry.

These pit vipers are not at all aggressive. “Copperheads do not become easily provoked and tend to sit tight rather than flee. During the day, they might seek out a sunny spot to aid digestion. You and I have probably passed a copperhead on a trail many times,” says Brown. With their tan hourglass pattern and thin dark brown stripes, they blend in well with the leafy ground of their preferred woodsy habitat.

Their distinguishing characteristic is a broad flat head brightly colored “like a new penny.”

The American Medical Association reports no deaths of adults or children from copperhead bites in the last 10 years. “The copperhead venom is the least potent of all the poisonous snakes,” Brown explains. It takes repeated bites to cause a systemic reaction strong enough to be fatal. Only if a person falls into a nest or grabs hold of a snake is death likely.

But copperheads have been more aggressive than usual this week. Dogs have reportedly been bitten both in southern Anne Arundel County and in Bethesda. Brown, who finds quite a few along the trails at Cypress Swamp, says the wet ground is forcing the snakes out of their habitat just at molting, mating and birthing time so they’re more agitated than usual. Dogs don’t seem to know enough to leave them alone.

Kim and Larry Settle’s seven-year-old Dalmatian, Clara, was bitten in front of their Deale Beach home. After a fracture was ruled out with x-rays, blood work confirmed three poisonous snake bites on a leg. Pain killers and the dog’s own immune system response were chosen over expensive anti-venom treatment. Clara, while expected to have permanent tissue damage, shows more bounce each day of recovery.

In a few more weeks, however, copperheads will hole up for the winter in hibernaculars of up to 100 snakes. Because of their strong homing instinct, they return to hibernation spots that have been established perhaps 50 to 100 years ago.

Brown doesn’t know what snakes do if a hibernacular is destroyed. He recalls a call a few Novembers ago reporting that a bulldozer clearing a spot for a new garage had uncovered a huge nest of snakes. For several years, snakes returned to the spot each fall looking for that same nest. Brown suspects a lot of snakes died looking for their familiar wintering spot.

—Sonia Linebaugh

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