Dobbins Island owner strives to limit access

Man seeking OK to build says trespassers treat land as park

August 21, 2005|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,SUN STAFF

He has been halted from building a home on the Magothy River property he bought last year, but David L. Clickner Sr. said that's not the reason he has stepped up efforts to prevent trespassing on Dobbins Island.

Last week, the Glen Burnie businessman wrapped the perimeter of the 7-acre crescent with yellow tape and placed red-and-white signs telling boaters not to trespass - and to call County Executive Janet S. Owens. He also has the state Natural Resources Police keeping a watchful eye on his property.

What has raised Clickner's ire is that people treat his island as a park. Clickner said Anne Arundel County knows it, allows visitors to frequent there, but doesn't police the area.

That leaves him to deal with "2 percent" of the visitors who are rowdy and vulgar, and to pick up debris they leave behind, he said. On top of that, he worries that heavy foot traffic will cause further deterioration of the decaying island.

"I can't get the [Owens] administration to understand that they are fostering an environment" in which it's acceptable for the public to use "the island as a park," he said.

Dobbins has served as a popular site for weekend campers, despite the presence of large blue-painted markers warning against trespassing. Some in the water community are concerned that Clickner is trying to discourage boaters from using the island's cove and sandbar, considered traditional summertime sanctuaries for generations.

Clickner, who bought Dobbins Island in October for $825,000, is seeking a variance request to build pier access to the island and a nearly 5,000-square-foot house. A county hearing officer last month rejected his request because of environmental concerns; Clickner is appealing.

Regarding his recent efforts to limit access on the island, Clickner said that boaters are still welcome. But others question whether he's being a good steward for the island.

"I'm really saddened that Clickner has gone through with this," said Paul Spadaro, president of the Magothy River Association, the environmental group that has fought Clickner's variance request. "There could have been other ways to get his point across."

Clickner reaffirmed his stance last week that "the island is not for sale to anyone at any price" - whether he can build a home there or not. He also added: "The Clickners will not subsidize an Anne Arundel County park."

Matt Diehl, a spokesman for Owens, said the county executive supports the rights of property owners, and encouraged Clickner to contact authorities, such as Natural Resources Police, to remedy the situation.

"I'm not sure how effective it would be to put the county executive's name on signs, though," he said.

Spadaro questions the placement of the yellow tape around Dobbins, marking where Clickner believes his property begins. State law allows access to waterfront property up to the high-water mark. Spadaro said Clickner has not conducted a detailed property survey to precisely measure where the line should be.

"Until the mean high-water line is determined, people should be allowed up on the beach, because [Natural Resources] police aren't surveyors," Spadaro said.

Natural Resources Police were called to the island last weekend to remove people from it. Lt. Bob Davis, a spokesman for the Maryland Natural Resources Police, said the agency will take action to protect Clickner's property rights.

In the meantime, Davis said, officers will issue warnings to boaters who access the island above the high-water mark.

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