Dock of the Bay

Vol. 8, No. 28
July 13-19, 2000
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Spring House Falls to Fire; Will Rise Again

After the smoke cleared from a three-alarm fire last Saturday morning, all that was left of Spring House Restaurant was a sinking roof and a frame of what had once been.

A year earlier, Robert and Theano Platt’s country restaurant survived a smaller blaze when a back awning was lit up, causing only $1,000 damage.

This fire did a lot more damage. Starting in the kitchen, it spread quickly throughout the restaurant. Smoke and soot ruined kitchen and deli, and fire charred the rest of the restaurant.

“The only thing left in one piece was the bar. The glasses were still hanging down but they’re melted into a point,” says Theano Platt. “I even found a small piece of bright pink plastic on the floor, and I recognized it right away as part of the Keno machine. But nothing was left intact.”

The blaze, first reported by a passerby around 2am, called out three companies of firefighters: from the Naval Academy, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties.

“You should have seen it. I turned right off of Riva Road [coming from her Annapolis home] and there were firetrucks everywhere along Central Avenue,” Platt recalls.

“I was very impressed with their organization,” she added. “They went in, in groups of eight, came out and disrobed at the side of the building, had their vitals checked right away by a nurse and then made sure to get plenty of liquids.”

The fire marshal is investigating the fire as an arson.

The Platts also own Pirates Cove in Galesville. They bought the bar and restaurant that they expanded as Spring House four years ago after selling Mums on City Dock.

The restaurateurs plan to level the building and start from scratch, hoping to reopen in time for the holiday season in November.

But for now, the Spring House shell stands empty, with yellow “Police Line - Do Not Cross” and red “Danger” ribbons draped around utility poles and spread across the parking lot. Two arson posters fixed to the front pillars offer a $500 reward for answers to this latest Spring House blaze.

Information? Call the Arson Control Association of Maryland and the Fire Marshal’s Office: 410/222-tips.

—Mary Catherine Ball and Darcey Dodd

Bay Life:
The Littlest Farmer

Benjamin Fleming is a six-year-old farmer with smart business sense. Since March, he’s been a regular vendor at the Annapolis Farmers’ Market, selling flowers, herbs and cucumbers from his garden as well as homemade soap.

Among dozens of stalls of professionals and amateurs stocking everything from sweet corn to homemade pie, Benjamin’s little card table sits in the middle of two awnings, the only stand in the sun. You might find him coloring or drawing behind the table, but more likely waiting on interested customers.

“Benjamin has always been interested in gardening,” his mother Lynn says. In his backyard garden at the family’s Harwood home, Benjamin does the weeding, watering and harvesting with some help from mom.

His garden, a large plot surrounded with flowers, needs plenty of time and care, but Benjamin’s mom describes him as “really enthusiastic about the whole thing.” Every Friday the garden is harvested, and soap is made either that night or Saturday morning. This week was the first week the cucumber crop was plentiful enough to sell.

The idea of farming for money dawned when Benjamin’s interest in Legos was depleting his allowance. “I couldn’t support his habit anymore,” Fleming jokes.

Benjamin, a first-grader who also enjoys swimming and art, attracts attention from shoppers at the market. Most people are initially surprised that the stand is run by such a young boy, but the surprise fades as he intelligently describes to them that he makes his soap out of chamomile, honey and seashells. “You get the seashell when you are finished with the soap,” he explains of his soap in a shell.

Benjamin is planning on harvesting pumpkins in the fall in time to sell them at the market for Halloween.

You can buy from Benjamin every Saturday at the Annapolis Farmer’s Market, Harry S Truman Parkway at Riva Road, but you might have to look a little below eye-level.

—Amy Mulligan

Boat Repair: Easy Sailing when Surfing on the Web

So your bilge pump burned out on the Bay, and in your frustrated mariner mood you made the rare mistake of docking at a pier before putting out your bumpers and thus etched a nasty scratch in your hull. On top of that, your stinkpot needs an oil change, and your mate is bugging you to install a new head.

Ah, the sweet joys of boating.

Time to trailer your boat and haul her in to your friendly neighborhood boat mechanic. But take pause, yon salt. Thanks to the miracles of the Internet, you might save yourself a bundle of booty.

Unfold your laptop, plug in a wireless modem and cart your tools to the docks, for now offers some 80 repair and maintenance guides on-line. You can even find human help in repair guru Don Casey, who dispenses advice on 34 boat repair topics ranging from the ails listed above to installing onboard electronics. You can even post direct questions to Casey, who answers them weekly.

Alas, if you’re as set in your ways as Ahab, you might leave the web surfing to new wave salts. Marinas such as Gates, in Deale ($59/hour), or Fairwinds, in Cape St. Claire ($50/hour), will be happy to have their mechanics float your boat.

—Mark Burns

Annapolis Gets a Megaplex

On bad days, it smells like feet.

Annapolis Mall’s old four-screen theater, around since the early ’80s, has left its glory days far behind. Nearly two decades of soda spillage and Goober droppings have given the floor a texture not dissimilar to warm tar paper. The advent of bowed big screens, high-back stadium-style seating and George Lucas’ THX sound — such as at Bowie’s new 14-screen megaplex — have reduced the theater-going experience here to but a tier above home theater systems. Such shortcomings beg the question: When, oh when will Annapolis have a luxuriant megaplex to call its own?

“This Friday,” says theater manager Allen Tomlinson.

Begun last year as part of Annapolis Mall’s expansion, the new 11-screen Crown megaplex is scheduled to open just in time for this weekend’s premier of X-Men. Included in the mall theater reincarnate are all the latest escapist perks, from stadium seats to top-of-the-line sound systems. It’s even an architectural improvement, replacing a mall alley cavern with a curving postmodern facade of stucco, brick, stone, steel and glass facing Jennifer Road.

“It’s night and day,” says Tomlinson in comparing the two. All that remains is for cleaning crews to finish their work; the old theater will cocoon itself and emerge as more mall retail space. Annapolis Harbour Center’s Crown 9, also managed by Tomlinson, is not to be left out. Renovation there, though not so dramatic, is slated for late this year or early next.

—Mark Burns

For Chesapeake Country, Another Mile of Trail

America’s network of trails is soon to be about a mile longer with the addition of a wetlands trail from the town of North Beach, in Calvert County, to the community of Rose Haven in Anne Arundel County.

The bi-county trail will run from the old water works in North Beach, continuing north along the edge of the marshland and behind Rose Haven to Herrington Harbour South.

The area is lush with Virginia creeper, rumox and salt meadow cord grass. Eagle, osprey, great blue heron, whistling swans and many bird species also call the marshlands home.

Much of the land is owned by Steuart Chaney of Herrington, but the plan, like the trail, comes from North Beach, whose mayor, Mark Frazer, calls it his “special project.”

“My special project is the North Beach Nature and Historic Center at the northwest end of town. It’s on this beautiful point of land that to the east has a view of the Bay and of what should be a thriving and healthy wetlands. I envision it as a study center for this region, giving tributary teams and watershed task forces a place where they can headquarter. Where children and adults can come and learn as they walk along this trail,” Frazer told Bay Weekly.

North Beach Town Hall buzzed as citizens from Holland Point and Rose Haven joined with Frazer, Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller, Del. George Owings III and Chaney at a public meeting on the trail last month.

“We have the support of Anne Arundel and Calvert counties as well as the state of Maryland,” said Frazer. “But we need community support,” he told his interested audience.

At the Calvert-Arundel line, as throughout Chesapeake Country, citizens today expect to be at the table when plans affecting their communities are drawn. Rose Haven and Holland Point, for example, successfully pressed for a waterfront park, bought with public Open Space money, on land Chaney had intended to develop.

“We are still reaching out for the feelings of the communities,” Frazer said. “So far, indications are the trail is being received favorably by the communities involved. I’ve been placed on the agenda of the Rose Haven Civic Association’s upcoming [July 12] meeting, where I hope to gain more support.”
“I think there is support here,” said Tom Gill of Rose Haven, where citizens had “worked closely” on early trail plans. “As I understand it, it won’t cost us anything. They expect federal funding, then state and county.”

Another neighbor along the trail is Holland Point, Anne Arundel County’s southernmost community, which follows Route 261 along the Bay — from the Calvert line at North Beach to Rose Haven.

“We haven’t had much input from them. As it stands now, the trail bypasses their community. A spur trail would be needed to connect them to the trail,” Frazer said.

The current proposal starts the trail, but will not finish it.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources suggests a paved pathway, which is popular among new multi-purpose trails, but others prefer a boardwalk. Miller and Owings want to extend the trail path into the wetlands at various points so visitors can get closer in to the environment.

Meanwhile, at the Calvert County Anne Arundel County line, the wetlands surrounding Frazer’s special project are getting some much-needed attention.

“The wetlands are dying,” Frazer told Bay Weekly. “We’ve got 440 acres being fed by that one clogged artery under the bridge you cross entering North Beach Park” on Route 261.

Revitalizing that marsh will take reengineering the flow of Baywater into the marsh so that tidal flows nourish a brackish environment. Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers have agreed to that project.

Down the road in Chesapeake Beach, another trail is in the works, according to Bruce Wahl, who is heading a town committee to hack out plans for a trail from Fishing Creek along the abandoned Chesapeake Bay Railway right-of-way. Envisioned is a 10-foot wide wooden boardwalk — with four-foot railings on either side — accessible by bicycles, pedestrians and even wheelchairs.

—Connie Darago

Way Downstream …

In Virginia, counties last week asked Virginia Senate and House committees for more authority to manage suburban development. Unlike Maryland, Virginia has no “Smart Growth” law, and local governments feel powerless and overrun. Said Stewart Schwartz, director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth: “We don’t want to look like New Jersey” …

In Colorado, it looked like a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock. For four days, a pair of robins cut off mail delivery to several homes in the community of Arvada by attacking letter carrier Dave Jackson each time he approached. Authorities were baffled. “Usually, it’s dogs we’re worried about,” the local postmaster said …

In Gainesville, Fla., people aren’t walking barefoot these days. As a result of a long drought that has lowered lake levels, alligators are roaming the streets, stopping traffic and eating dogs. The problem is worse because it’s gator mating season, and “this is the time of year they get testy,” the Gainesville Sun reports …

Our Creature Feature comes from San Jose, Calif., where things have gotten so bad at Lake Cunningham and Almaden Lake state parks that they’ve brought in the Goose Busters. They’re two dogs, Thistle, a border collie, and Breaker, a Belgian Tervuren, and their job is to run off bold Canada geese who are denuding foliage and stealing food from the baskets of picnickers.

Thistle and Breaker do this for a living, mind you, so it was quite a showdown the day they showed up. At first, several hundred aggressive geese held their turf. But with Thistle hurtling about like a rocket and Breaker barking like the Hound of the Baskervilles, the geese were driven away. Now, as soon as Thistle and Breaker’s truck shows up (they’re not driving it), the honkers skedaddle.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly