A ghost beach on the bay Waterfront: Residents think of Beverly-Triton Beach as a private preserve, but Anne Arundel County wants to open the park to all.

July 11, 1998|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

For almost half a century, Beverly-Triton Beach, a pristine white sand beach south of Annapolis, was the most popular private resort on the Chesapeake Bay, bustling with cabanas and sunbathers, big bands and clutches of jingling slot machines.

But for 30 years now, the last half of them as a county park, it has been nearly deserted.

That a stunning 340-acre stretch of undeveloped bay front in a county with thousands of sand-starved residents has remained virtually unused for so long is a testimony to the power of exclusion.

The resort closed in 1968 when owner Eager S. Kalb lost a federal court fight to keep out minorities. But nearby residents have succeeded since in keeping out all people, peppering their neighborhoods with "Do Not Enter" signs, protesting & 2/3 construction of a parking lot, thwarting county plans to develop the park as a place to hike, fish or even just canoe past.

Anne Arundel County has 527 miles of shoreline, more than any other in the state, yet more than 90 percent of it is privately owned. That point is not lost on county officials, who see this last large piece of undeveloped shoreline north of Calvert County as the answer to decades of bad planning and funding shortages that let developers snap up most of the waterfront.

"Quite frankly, enough is enough," said Tom Angelis, director of the county Department of Recreation and Parks. "At no stretch of the imagination am I going to let the outcome of this park just be totally dictated by a small group of people. It belongs to all 465,000 county residents and if we let everybody who lives next to something determine what will happen next door, we would probably have nothing at all."

While the park is technically open to anyone willing to buy a $3-a-month permit from the live-in caretaker to hike or fish, only 10 people did so last month.

No one knows about it, caretaker Jeff Mauck says with a shrug, and because the beach lacks bathrooms, paths and tables, and has space for only six cars, the county doesn't advertise. In the quiet nearby community of Mayo, residents fear waking up next door to a beach like Sandy Point State Park, which draws 800,000 people a year. After 30 years of living beside woods, ponds and some of the whitest sand this side of the bay, they see the area as their private domain.

"A lot of people think it's a private park," said resident Mike Hawk of Beverly-Triton recently, leaning against one of the old resort guardrails. He moved with his family to the area last year. "It's so close, I mean there is no line that says Triton Beach starts here. It seems like ours. As soon as they open it, it's going to go to trash."

A private beach, which residents lease from the county for a dollar a year, borders the county park. For three years residents have patrolled the shoreline to keep everyone but locals off their beach, for which they pay upkeep and insurance. A more popular park would surely bring more infiltrators.

And, resident Christine Miss argues, it was the neighbors who for years cared for and cleaned the park, long before anyone paid any attention, long before the land's worth skyrocketed to a value that even Edgar Kalb could not have predicted.

One visitor, Paul Hvizda from Edgewater, said he can understand the neighbors' concerns. It took him a year through friends of friends to get permission to fish on the community side of the beach and he doesn't want to see the area disturbed.

"If you're an outsider around here," he said, baiting his line, "it takes a long time to get in with the locals."

Money will not be budgeted for bathrooms, parking and a nature center until at least 2000. Angelis says the delay will allow tempers to cool before any work begins.

Development averted

Only a few older Mayo residents pointed out the irony that in the years immediately after the resort closed, a desperate Mayo Civic Association pleaded with the County Council to buy the property for a park, to save it from the New Jersey developer who had bought it from Kalb. Developer Frank Biscoe wanted to build a "mini-city" of 2,441 luxury units on the bay.

Biscoe was foreclosed on in 1978 after the county refused to extend sewer service into Mayo. He sued for $250 million, arguing the county had acted solely to foil his plans. He lost, even though some residents say under their breath that's exactly what the county did.

By 1983 the county had scraped together enough money, combined with state and federal grants, to buy the land from Chase Manhattan Bank for $3.25 million.

"Purchasing Beverly-Triton and South River Farms are two of the most important purchases we made and one of the most important things I did," said James O. Lighthizer, who was county executive at the time.

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