Paradise in Perry Hall

Seaside: When Billie Equi tired of long drives to the ocean, she decided to move the beach within easy reach.

May 04, 2000|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Life is a beach every day at the end of Krisswood Court in Perry Hall.

It's been that way since last May when Billie Equi built one in her back yard, right next to the gleaming in-ground pool, with 24 tons of honest-to-goodness sand. Lois Kindel, a longtime friend, added tiny seashells and then the two women splurged, adding lush, green dune grass.

The project raised more than a few eyebrows. Friends and co-workers wondered whether Equi and Kindel had lost their minds. Neighbors giggled nervously when they saw two truckloads of sand being dumped in the carport. Tony, Equi's son, thought the idea was "just really weird."

But these days, no one will turn down an invitation to the only inland backyard beach resort in the vast suburbs of Baltimore County.

"I guess you could say we're a little eccentric," says Equi, 45, a registered nurse at Fort Howard Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "But I love playing in sand. We both love the beach. We hate the long drive to the ocean. We hate the broken bottles, trash and crowds.

"This way we don't have to fight the traffic and then find a place to stay," she adds. "I wanted to be different. I don't want to be John Doe next door. Besides, my neighbors get a kick out of it."

The beach project makes more sense if one understands the Equi motto: Don't take life too seriously. Relax. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

And by all means, don't cut the lawn if you don't have to.

When it was time last year to repair the warped wooden deck surrounding her pool, and Equi tired of the steep, grassy area in one corner of her half-acre yard, she made a decision.

"Let's build a beach," she recalls saying.

The idea wasn't a total surprise to neighbors. Equi is well-known for going a tad overboard with outdoor bunnies, valentines, flags and goblins on holidays.

But first she needed sand. She found it at a construction company on Pulaski Highway, which charged her $189 for 12 tons -- delivered. Then she realized 12 tons wouldn't do, so she bought 12 more.

For the next seven days, they carted the sand, one wheelbarrow at a time, from the carport to the far corner of the back yard. Kindel shoveled the sand, Tony and his friend Brian Roberts wheeled it into the yard, and Equi patted it into place. A retaining wall built of recycled deck wood kept sand from seeping into neighbors' yards.

That was the hard part.

Then they repainted two cabanas pastel yellow, blue, pink and purple. They painted beach chairs the same colors and bought a big umbrella to ward off the glaring sun. They hung plastic starfish, sea gulls, lobsters, crabs and sea horses from another retaining wall next to the pool.

"I guess we're the type of people who never understood why fantasy couldn't be reality," says Kindel, 51, a former retail saleswoman who moved in with Billie Equi and her son two years ago after her mother died. "We've had so much fun doing this."

Paradise has cost them about $1,300. But Equi and Kindel say it's worth every penny.

For anyone thinking of stopping by for a peek, the Perry Hall resort is mostly hidden from view. The sandy slope is fenced in and surrounded by neighbors' emerald green lawns, magnolias and fir trees.

Those lucky enough to get an invite, however, will find an oasis amid the subdivisions. True, the briny smell of sea air is missing. No sea gulls circle overhead. Not a boardwalk french fry can be found.

A busy place

Not that anyone seems to mind. When the telephone rings in the Equi house, chances are the caller will ask: "Can I come hang out at the beach?"

On lazy, hazy summer days, the backyard resort is a busy place, with work parties, neighborhood gatherings and family get-togethers where everyone builds sand castles and sips fruity, frozen drinks.

When the pink plastic lawn flamingos in the front yard light up, everyone on the block knows it's open bar at BLT Flamingo -- the initials taken from the three residents of the 14-room brick house.

"It's great on a summer evening," says Roberts, 20, who lives nearby and is pushing hard for the addition of a hammock.

Says 21-year-old Tony, who doesn't mind a bit that his girlfriends like to lounge around the beach in swimsuits: "We used to go to Ocean City during the summertime. We don't anymore."

Expansion planned

Work is far from over. Club Equi has become so popular that a few more truckloads of sand will be brought in soon. The wooden deck on the other side of the pool is being taken down and topsoil removed. It's all part of a beachfront expansion.

"On a nice warm night, I'll squirt down the sand to get it a little wet," Equi says. "I put in a CD of ocean waves and light candles. Then I put my bare feet on the ground and I swear it feels just like I'm at the ocean."

She says that one of these days she might buy a palm tree and a wave machine for the pool.

"It's kind of weird and totally off the wall, but I love it," says Leah Hodge, 20, a friend of Tony's from school. "Last year, my girlfriends and I said, `Let's go to the beach.' Our other friends asked, `Just for the day?' We laughed and said, `Yeah.'

"They've made their place and yard a place where people want to be, and, trust me, people do want to be here."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.