Making your way across the jetty at Sandy Point State Park is like walking on bowling balls. Wet ones.
The rocks have a way of channeling feet this way and that into the nasty spaces between them, a perfect geometric formula for sending a tackle box one way and a rod the other in the best case, or delivering a skinned knee, an ankle sprain or worse.
Despite trying conditions, anglers take their chances for access to the Chesapeake Bay to fish in the shadow of the Bay Bridge.
Why? They don't have boats, and the state of Maryland, for all of its shoreline, has few places for those folks to wet a line.
Skip Zinck, an avid bay angler and diver, owns a boat that he often launches from Sandy Point and motors past the rock-bound anglers.
"There are days when I see a family trying to fish from the jetty that I want to take the kids out so they can catch some fish," Zinck says. "I just feel so bad for them."
Zinck, a contractor who lives in Anne Arundel County, is all about access, especially for youngsters. He is the driving force behind the Wish-A-Fish Foundation, a bunch of good-hearted anglers with boats who take seriously ill children and their families out each season for a day of free fishing.
Now he has a new mission: rehabilitating the Sandy Point jetty.
He has a blueprint, too. There's a jetty below the Bay Bridge, just to the south of the old ferry landing, that looks as solid as the park jetty to the north looks shaky.
It has a flat top and sits at least 3 feet higher in the water than the Sandy Point rock pile. The sides are sturdy, not a boulder out of place.
"The Sandy Point jetty should look like that one," says Zinck, pointing at the model citizen.
A man used to building things and recruiting others says that with the economy in the dumper, there are lots of idle construction workers and contractors - who fish for fun - who might volunteer to rebuild the jetty at cost or for a fraction of what it might cost the state to do it.
But Zinck isn't the only one with an eye on the jetty.
Nita Settina, the state parks superintendent, also would like to make the jetty a more welcoming site.
"We need more shoreline access," says Settina, no fan of the Brand X jetty at her park. "Access is clearly an issue in Maryland, and if we can improve that at state parks, why not?"
Jordan Loran, a Department of Natural Resources engineering guru, says he has the blueprints ready and permits in hand to restore the jetty.
Unfortunately, there's the little matter of the $650,000 to get the job done.
"This project is of fairly high priority. If we had the funds, we could bid it today," he says.
Loran says the two jetties were nearly identical until the early 1970s, when the north jetty stones were moved to make way for the second span of the Bay Bridge but not restacked properly.
Storms have eroded the underpinnings and reduced the jetty's effectiveness as a breakwater for the Sandy Point beach.
"It's a mess," the engineer says of the haphazard rock pile.
Blueprints call for a crested surface 7 feet to 8 feet wide about 7 feet above the water. The widening would occur on the north side of the jetty so as to not interfere with the boat channel leading to the Sandy Point marina. The jetty would extend as far as its southern counterpart, with a top of smooth stone similar to the jetty at the Ocean City inlet.
"It would be an easily walkable surface. Safe," Loran says. "We're anxious to get it done." He estimates the job could be completed inside of one year.
But Waterway Improvement Funds are limited and the state piggy bank is empty. This shovel-ready project would seem a perfect candidate for federal stimulus money. Settina says she is still looking for outside sources to tap.
"It's not easy," she says. "Hopefully, it's not something we couldn't overcome. I think the need to expand pier, jetty and shoreline fishing access and the quality of the experience is an important issue worth our attention."