|Keeping the Bay at Bay
by Hanne Denney
I watched with fascination. The trucks rolled in, heavy and loud and full of huge rocks. The equipment operator expertly moved his lever, bent the excavator boom and picked the boulders up. He precisely placed each rock on the filter cloth spread across the sloping bank. There was a splash as a rock hit the water.
I had five small children with me, and they stood as if frozen by the sight of the big equipment. They were almost afraid, and that was a good thing. Fear kept them safely close to my side. After minutes of silent watching, they started asking questions. "What are they doing? Why? What happened to the beach?"
The land had been washing away for years. Already, several large and lovely oak trees had fallen into the Bay, and part of the lot was underwater. The man who owned the land needed to take dramatic action if he was to save his house. It was his right, and perhaps his responsibility, to keep any more dirt, plants and human debris from washing into the Chesapeake. He had hired the bulkheading company to construct the stone barrier to protect the soil from further erosion.
It had formed as a result of the eroding action of the water. The beach was privately owned, but I had often brought children there to observe nature. Even in Anne Arundel County, many children never get to touch water and sand.
We saw ducklings hatch and swim. We saw horseshoe crabs come into lay their eggs, and we saw the birds that eat the eggs digging in the sand. We saw fish floating in, dead, and wondered why. Once we saw a diamondback terrapin. Jellyfish were easy to see but harder to avoid as we waded.
We gathered many treasures, boxes full of memories. Bits of beach glass, or ceramic shards; odd metal shapes and driftwood both natural and man-made. A plastic spoon, a silver spoon, bottles both old and new. Shells from mussels, oysters and clams. We collected them for sorting games, for learning exercises and just because they were there to be picked up. I don't know why this area was so fruitful in Bay treasures, but I rarely left without something in my pocket.
The beach is gone. It is buried under huge rocks and plastic. The oak trees are safe, as is the house. Generations to come will stand on the grass above the rocks and admire the view. But the children, present and future, will not be able to stand at water's edge and feel the Bay's movement as it tickles their toes.
We are bulkheading the communities around the Bay to protect our property from erosion - and to protect the Bay itself from the pollution of soil runoff. I understand the necessity of the effort and the right of property owners to do it. But I am sorry to see people separate themselves from the water by fences of stone.
I want to thank the people who own this property for letting me bring children to the water. And thanks to the equipment operator who didn't seem to mind us watching him work. Yet I feel kind of mournful, for we have lost a great little beach. We see the Bay at a distance now, but the view is still beautiful. If you want to touch some of the Bay, come on by. I'll let you hold the pebbles, beach glass and seashells in my treasure box.