Town losing the 'beach' in its name North Beach, eroded by storms, needs $30,000 for repairs

'Took a lot of sand'

Mayor asks for funds, but some residents think shore is OK

February 23, 1998|By Melinda Rice | Melinda Rice,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

North Beach is losing its namesake.

The tiny beachfront community in Calvert County -- snuggled against Anne Arundel County's southern border -- lost about half its beach to this month's northeasters.

"Those storms, they took a lot of the sand out," said Henry Haley. He and his wife, Pearl, live in neighboring Chesapeake Beach but frequently stroll along North Beach's boardwalk.

That boardwalk stretches along most of North Beach's mile of waterfront, but gives way to a sandy spot around a community pier across Bay Avenue from the North Beach Supermarket.

Every successive storm nibbles at the remaining sand.

This is a town 10 blocks long and five blocks wide that has one restaurant (which doubles as its one bar), one gas station and one grocery store.

The residents do not want to lose their one beach.

North Beach Mayor Dan Hartley fears a few more heavy squalls will make North Beach's beach a memory and will have the Chesapeake Bay lapping at the edges of Bay Avenue.

"We're upset, but I'm not going to let it get me down," he said. "It's just part of the problem of living on the waterfront."

This particular problem likely will cost the town of 2,700 nearly $30,000. The town's budget for a year is $1.5 million.

"I don't know where we're going to get the money," Hartley said.

The cost so far is twofold. An initial estimate to restore the beach was $20,000. That would involve scraping back the remaining sand, filling in the beach with silt trucked in and then replacing the beach sand over the silt.

That work cannot begin until the weather is settled enough to allow heavy equipment in the area.

The other part of the operation will cost as much as $7,000 and must be done immediately.

The town's storm drainage system is backing up because its outlet pipe, offshore from the dwindling beach, is clogged with sand.

Water is no longer draining properly, and streets and yards nearest the beach are waterlogged.

A.J. Marine of Baltimore is working to clear the pipe, but no contract has been awarded to fix the beach.

The town is seeking state and federal funds but may not qualify because those funds are often awarded based on countywide damage estimates. The rest of Calvert County did not sustain similar damage from the winter northeasters.

There's another problem, too: Not everyone agrees the repairs should be made.

Bonnie Thomas, who works at the supermarket across the street from the beach the mayor has described as "ravaged," said she really didn't notice any difference in the beach after the storms.

Neither did Betty Hancock of Dunkirk, a frequent visitor to the beach for three years.

Joe Bergen, former town councilman who has lived in North Beach for 40 years, did notice that about half the beach had washed away, but he's not convinced that the repair estimates are accurate or worthwhile.

"I can't see spending a lot of money to save this little bit of beach," he said. "Besides, I don't think they could get it fixed for $20,000."

He does agree with Hartley on one thing, however. "I don't know where the money is coming from," he said.

Pub Date: 2/23/98

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