Best of the Bay 2003

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| Best of the Bay Bay Life | Arts & Entertainment | Edibles |
| Goods & Services | Outdoors & Recreation | Politics |

And the Winners Are…
Outdoors & Recreation

Best Park
Readers’ Choice: Quiet Waters Park
“It could have been condos,” says park staffer Mary Watco. Instead, it’s Quiet Waters Park, 340 acres in the middle of Annapolis with a six-mile walking and biking trail, picnic pavilions, playgrounds and places to paddle on Harness Creek.

“It’s a great place to recreate,” Watco adds. Besides the nature to be seen while biking, walking, or boating, the park also has a café and art gallery, and hosts 80 to 100 weddings a year in the Blue Heron center and Blue Heron garden.

Editors’ Choice: Chesapeake Bay National Park
We know Chesapeake Bay National Park isn’t a reality yet — nor will it ever be in the sense that, say, Yellowstone National Park is a piece of America that can’t belong to anyone because it belongs to all of us. Yet the National Park Service proposal to find ways to share our great Bay with America is full of promise for us as well as for all our nation’s citizens. The Bay is already a treasure. The know-how and resources the National Park Service has to invest could help protect our treasure so we can all continue to enjoy it.

Best Public View
Readers’ Choice: North Beach
Do you enjoy easy Sunday drives through the country hoping for a glimpse of paradise? If you travel along Route 260, you will bundle down a hill in your automobile — and there in all its glory is the Bay. That’s Chesapeake Beach’s best view. Turn left onto Rt. 261, joggle toward the water and you’ll find out why Bay Weekly readers say North Beach has the best public view in Chesapeake Country.

“It’s an unobstructed view of the Bay. There are no tall structures blocking the view,” said the Town of North Beach’s Joanne Hunt.

Indeed large cargo ships making their way up and down the Bay, watermen making their journeys out for fish, sailors and motor boaters all are part of the view from North Beach.

To see for yourself, you have to take that trip.

Editors’ Choice: Atop the Bay Bridge
It takes courage to drive to cross the twin spans that link Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore to its Western, but once you’re up there, for one quick moment you hold the best seat on the Bay. You can see for miles — if you dare look down.

Best Bike Trail
Readers’ Choice: B&A Trail
If you believe in human power and exercise outdoors, then Chesapeake Country has a gem for you. The Baltimore and Annapolis Trail, better known as the B&A Trail, is a jewel tucked in and around busy neighborhoods and bustling traffic.

“People are attracted to it, because of good design and management. The community is involved in trail beautification, and they have made it their own,” said B&A’s David Dionne.

The trail is one part of a larger system of trails that allows you to bike, run, walk or motor (for electronic wheelchairs and other assisted mobile devices) to and from work, to play and even to connect to the expanding network of trails that criss-crosses America.

Editors’ Choice: Patapsco Valley State Park
If riding on fat tires — mountain biking — is the thing for you, one of the best trails in Maryland can be found just north of Chesapeake Country. The Patapsco Valley State Park, off the Baltimore Beltway — offers plenty for those who want to go off-road. The trails at the park offer technical singletrack to test your skills. You’ll encounter logs, rocks, streams, switchbacks and more on narrow trails.

Be prepared to put your lungs through the ringer. You’ll have to work hard to traverse the paths. The Avalon area offers the best mountain biking at the park. While Avalon is long, the Old Ranger Trail is a nice short 1.5 mile loop that is a great warm-up.

Front suspension is not necessary, but it certainly will add to your comfort while riding at the park.

Best Place to Paddle
Readers’ Choice: Quiet Waters Park
Moonlight paddling. Imagine that.

It’s one of many ways to put a paddle in the water on Harness Creek. Amphibious Horizons at Quiet Waters rents kayaks, canoes and paddle boats. And beginners need not fear; they offer training classes and paddling sessions with instructors.

“What’s good about Harness is that it’s deep and safe,” explains Quiet Waters’ Mary Watco. Best of all, it’s in the beautiful Quiet Waters Park. “These days we’re constantly in motion. It’s good to stop and get a little peace of mind,” Watco says. Anyone who’s paddled the tranquil creek can tell you the park lives up to its name.

Editor’s Choice: Flag Ponds Nature Park
The beautiful Flag Ponds Nature Park, north of Calvert Cliffs, is home to a one-mile beach where beginning paddlers can get their sea legs without apprehension before heading out into the open Bay. That’s because the water is shallow at the beach and far into the Bay.

“A lot of times, people are afraid to go out in kayaks,” says Lance Craven of Island Creek Outfitters. “But when they see waders standing only up to the ankles, there’s no fear. Plus, these are really stable kayaks.”

Flag Ponds beach is a big sand flat, so it’s generally calm. That makes for good beachcombing. Sharks’ teeth are plentiful for the sharp-eyed, and there are shells and beach treasures.

It’s a half-mile downhill walk from the parking lot to the beach. To make paddling easy, Craven drives a rack of kayaks down to the beach for renting on the first and last weekends of the month (call for dates: 410/586-0576). Passionate about paddling, he’ll set you up with paddles, kayak and PDF, give you all the pointers you may need, help you with technique or, if you so desire, send you out for your own trial-and-error run.

Best Golf Course
Readers’ Choice: Twin Shields Golf Club
The lads and lasses agree, Twin Shields Golf Club is the best of the Bay. Aye, but why?

“We keep the course in nice shape year round. And we’ve got a friendly atmosphere and professional staff,” said John Dodson of Twin Shields Golf Club.

There are seven water holes on a scenic course that is “difficult, but not too frustrating,” added Dodson.

Twin Shields’ fairways are green and beautiful. The greens are quick, with more than enough undulation to make putting tricky. The par-three 5th hole is one of the nicest on the course. From an elevated tee, you must carry over a small pond while avoiding three bunkers guarding the green.

If you’re daft enough, give it a swing or two.

Editors’ Choice: South River Golf Links
Nestled in the heart of Edgewater is a public golf course that will make you believe you’ve been elevated to a grand-style country club. The South River Golf Links is a plush, well-kept 18-hole golf course both challenging and fun.

The course was designed by Ault, Clark & Associates and is made to test the patience of even a saint. Watch for the 16th hole, where the green is surrounded by sand traps not only to the front-left, front-right and back, but also through the middle of the fairway leading up to the green. This par 5 will drive some to insanity.

Fees for course and cart are reasonable for the hospitality. A steward will meet you at your vehicle to take your bag to your cart. For 18-holes the price ranges from $65 to $82 and includes a cart and warming up on the driving range.

Best Marina
Readers’ Choice: Herrington Harbour Marina Resort
For our readers and 1,200 or so boaters, the search for the best marina starts and stops at Herrington Harbour Marina Resort, whether in its traditional location in Rose Haven or at Herrington Harbour North in Tracey’s Landing. It’s been five seasons since Marina Dock Age magazine named Herrington its marina of the year — and things are just getting better.

“We’re constantly reinvesting in the marinas,” says general manager Tom Wilhelm.

That means high-grade dockage on freshly dredged waterways; landscaped and discreetly lighted grounds; dinghy racks and storage lockers; swimming pools, tennis courts and picnic grounds; restaurants, bars and grills; yacht yards and clubs; shopping and water taxis; feasts and festivities.

Both locations of Herrington Harbour have most of that plus breathtaking views. Herrington Harbour South looks its best by land: approaching from the north down Route 261, you get your first glimpse of the Bay over the masts of hundreds of sailboats. Herrington Harbour North, on the other hand, shows its full face to the water: it’s the vast array of docks — with big fancy boats — to your left as you enter the protected Deale harbor on Tracey’s Creek.

Traditionally, South — where Herring Bay Yacht Club makes its home — has been the yacht club of the pair while North — with its full-service boatyard — has been the working partner of the pair. That’s changed with the addition of a swimming pool and club to the Tracey’s Landing marina.

Editors’ Choice: Wherever you dock your boat …
We’ve never met a Chesapeake boater — ourselves included — who didn’t say the best marina was the place they docked. Some love backwaters; others the happening scene. Some want resort amenities; others want to rough it. Some want all the work done for them; others want to do it themselves. Some want the meanders of rivers; others want to hop onto the open Bay. The great thing about Chesapeake Country is that we have it all.

Best Fish
Readers’ Choice: Rockfish
There are three good reasons why rockfish is the favorite fish on the Bay.

First, rockfish come in three sizes: big, bigger and biggest. Rockfish live to grow. By its first birthday, a rockfish will be about 10 inches long; by its fourth it will be 18 to 21 inches long and weigh two to three pounds. Bigger rockfish commonly weigh 40 or more pounds. That’s as big as a four-year-old kid. The biggest rockfish ever seen weighed 125 pounds.

Second, the Bay is full of rockfish. There might not be a rockfish in every square foot of water, but hundreds of thousands are out there. Last year, fishermen caught nearly 400,000 rockfish in Maryland waters.

Third, rockfish are a prize. You’ve got to put some thought, some know-how and some work into catching them. So when you succeed, you can pat yourself on the back. What’s more, your fish is likely to be so big that you give real thought to having it stuffed to hang on the wall as a trophy. On the other hand, you could just eat it and eat it and eat it.

Editors’ Choice: The Lowly Flounder
How many animals do you know with both eyes on one side of their head? Over the course of its adolescence, the flounder’s spine twists, moving one eye to the other side of its body. Not all flounders’ eyes go to the same side! The winter flounder’s eyes move to the right side of the head, the summer flounder’s eyes move to the left.

Flounder make delicious mild fillets. They are easy to clean, meaning they aren’t as bony as some fish, and they’re easy to cook: just wait till they’re white. Some people describe the flounder’s mild taste as sweet or nutlike.

Best Public Beach
Readers’ Choice: North Beach
Ocean City — too congested. West Palm Beach — too far. So, what to do if you want to spend a day at the beach? Go to North Beach. The view’s spectacular, the sand’s abundant and the water’s refreshing — especially since jellyfish have been turned off by rainy weather.

“The beach is cleaned and raked every day. The facilities are kept clean and orderly. Our plan is for people to come to North Beach and then come back again and again,” said the Town of North Beach’s Joanne Hunt.

Out-of-town residents pay $4 (with age discounts) for a day at the beach (plus a per-pole charge to fish off the admirable pier). There’s also a charge to park in the public lot off Chesapeake or Bay Avenue.

Editors’ Choice: Breezy Point Beach
Take a large strip of sandy beach spread out in front of a netted swim area and you have the basic elements for a day by the Bay. Add weeping willows and locust trees shading picnic tables, grills and a playground composed of merry-go-round, swings and a large pirate ship — and the day by the Bay turns into extended family fun. Even the fishermen in the family have outlets for play: a long fishing pier and beach access to surf fishing.

Haven’t got it all together to pack up the ingredients for outdoor grilling? Don’t fret. New this year to Breezy Point Beach is the snack bar. Reasonably priced hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, sodas and snow balls will fill your order. Adjacent to the new snack bar are new bathrooms and outdoor showers.

If one day on the shore doesn’t do it for you, consider staying overnight at the campground. Bayfront campsites with electrical hook-ups and bathing facilities await.

Best Place to Picnic
Readers’ Choice: Quiet Waters Park
The fields and woodland trails of Quiet Waters Park start smelling tasty in the evening as grills start to flare. With pavilions to rent that can hold up to 100 people and tables for 20 that allow visitors to bring their own grills, Quiet Waters has room for everyone. “Even though three to four thousand people come to Quiet Waters Park every day, there are so many open spaces here that it never seems crowded,” comments Quiet Waters’ Mary Watco. It’s happy picnicking in the midst of a beautifully kept park. “It’s the wonderfully dedicated staff that keep it that way,” Watco declares.

Editors’ Choice: Sandy Point State Park
Few public places along the Bay get you as close to the water as Sandy Point State Park. Jutting out into the Chesapeake, flanked by the Bay Bridges on one side and looking onto Drum Point Lighthouse from another side, the views are always spectacular. This state treasure, open to the public from 6am to sunset for a small fee of $4 per person with weekday discounts offers dozens of picnic sites.

In addition to the many picnic tables, each with its own grill, several pavilions allow larger groups to gather. A number of playgrounds throughout the park provide plenty of energy-burning fun for the little ones, while the adults are sure to enjoy the breathtaking views of the Bay in between bites of hot dogs and corn. And, of course, visitors with a picnic basket can settle down most anywhere, the beach included.

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© COPYRIGHT 2003 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.
Last updated August 28, 2003 @ 3:01am