A gentle breeze and steady rain were the only signs of activity last night along the beaches, fields and woods that make up North Point State Park.
Not so serene were most of 250 people who came out to Sparrows Point High School last night to debate the future of the park purchased by the state four years ago.
The focus of the Maryland Critical Area Commission hearing was the Department of Natural Resources' plan for $6 million in improvements on a 20-acre portion of the 1,310-acre park near Edgemere.
The commission must decide in 60 days whether the plans meet environmental safeguards for the Chesapeake Bay, on the park's eastern boundary.
Opponents said last night the plan would ruin the park's natural habitat, a nesting place for bald eagles and American bitterns.
"We need a plan that looks forward to the environmental realities that are facing the Chesapeake Bay today. We don't think the DNR plan does that," said Lee Epstein, a lawyer hired to fight the plan. Mr. Epstein presented petitions with 10,000 signatures he said supported the position of the Coalition to Preserve Black Marsh.
The state plan calls for construction of a 300-seat amphitheater, a two-story visitors' center with dormitory space for 40 students, a 150-space parking lot, 50 slips for boats, two picnic pavilions and a beach.
A trolley barn, an earthen pier and a stone fountain that were part of the park when it was Bay Shore amusement park in the early 1900s would be restored.
"It's going to be an education center, an environmental center and a historical park to help educate our youngsters," said Janet Wood of Dundalk, who chaired a 15-member citizens advisory group that approved the plan.
But opponents say the park would be better off without the amphitheater, boat slips and visitors' center with concession stand.