Cape St. Claire puts residents in the swim of things

Water-oriented Arundel community has small-town appeal

  • Within Cape St. Claire -- and for use by its residents only -- are three private beaches, a community-fishing pier, three community piers with about 200 boat slips and a boat launch.
Within Cape St. Claire -- and for use by its residents only --… (Baltimore Sun photo by Barbara…)
April 28, 2010|By Nancy Jones Bonbrest, Special to The Baltimore Sun

Surrounded on three sides by water with breathtaking views, the community of Cape St. Claire is cherished by residents seeking a tranquil, small-town feeling.

Located in Anne Arundel County on the shores of the Little Magothy River, the Magothy River, the Chesapeake Bay and Deep Creek, the community is called home by almost 8,000 residents, giving it the feel of a small town.

"One of the things I love is, once you get off the freeway and you go back into Cape St. Claire, you could be living in a small town anywhere. You forget you're living in this big metropolitan area," said Sam Gallagher, president of the Cape St. Claire Improvement Association.

Once farmland, the community of Cape St. Claire was founded in 1949 and developed as a summer cottage community for families from Baltimore and Washington looking for waterfront recreation.

"I love the fact that it's an older established neighborhood with all the old trees," Gallagher said. "I like that it doesn't have that cookie-cutter look."

The community is only minutes to Annapolis, just off U.S. 50. Still, it's the water that remains the primary attraction.

And while you don't have to own a waterfront house to enjoy the water amenities in this neighborhood, you do need to be a resident. Within the community — and for use by its residents only — are three private beaches, a community fishing pier, three community piers with about 200 boat slips and a boat launch.

Gallagher said he's only about a half-mile from one of the community piers, where he keeps his boat for a modest annual fee. He tries to get out on the water once a week. "It's a great place," he said.

Josephine Gardner moved to the area 35 years ago from Baltimore and raised four children in Cape St. Claire. Two of her children, now adults, also live in the neighborhood.

"You watch your grandchildren go to the same schools your children went to," said Gardner. "It's a very hometown, small-town type of feel to it."

She said she enjoys the mix of houses and residents. "That's what makes the Cape what it is, the people," said Gardner.

There are many activities and clubs in Cape St. Claire, including a youth sailing program, yacht club and garden club. Cape St. Claire hosts a community Strawberry Festival in June — this year it is June 12 — with a parade, festival princess, contests and entertainment.

Housing stock: Very few of the original summer cottages still exist within Cape St. Claire. Many split-level houses, mostly built in the 1970s, are located throughout the neighborhood, but there's also an eclectic mix of million-dollar waterfronts, Colonials, ranchers and contemporaries.

"I think it's the best-kept secret in Anne Arundel County," said Mona LaCovey, a real estate agent with Re/Max Advantage Realty in Annapolis and Severna Park. "It's a family-oriented, water-privileged community."

The neighborhood attracts people including those looking for their first homes and those spending millions of dollars on a waterfront property, she said. Prices start in the low $200,000s range and go up to more than $3 million. A Colonial with three bedrooms and two full bathrooms, built in 1990, recently sold for $350,000.

"There are just beautiful views of the Chesapeake Bay. Everything is so community-oriented," added LaCovey. "The biggest favor we can do for [clients] is to introduce them to the community."

Schools: Cape St. Claire is served by Cape St. Claire Elementary, Magothy River Middle and Broadneck High schools. The elementary school scored well in state standardized testing with more than 90 percent of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders scoring in the proficient range. Middle school students also scored well, with 92 percent of eighth-graders scoring proficient in reading. Students at Broadneck High School scored well, with proficiency levels for the most part in the mid-90 percent range and a 95 percent graduation rate.

Crime: The Cape St. Claire Improvement Association hires off-duty police officers to help patrol the area and has recently launched a community watch group. Lt. Herbert Hasenpusch of the Anne Arundel County Police Department said the most common calls for service include thefts from automobiles and occasionally homes.

"But it's not any different than most communities in the county," said Hasenpusch, the executive officer of the Eastern District. "It is certainly not one of our chronic problem areas." The department is using a new communication tool, Nixle Community Information Service, to keep in touch with community associations by using real-time text alerts.

Shopping: Residents are only a short drive from major shopping areas, including Westfield-Annapolis Mall and downtown Annapolis. The neighborhood shopping center provides a gas station, hardware store and general store.

Transportation: There's no public transportation in Cape St. Claire.

Dining in: Graul's Market is located at the Cape St. Claire Shopping Center.

Dining out: Although residents are a quick drive or pleasant boat ride away from downtown Annapolis and its restaurants, they also have several eateries located in the neighborhood shopping center, including the Broadneck Grill, Rita's Water Ice, Subway, Pizza Hut and others.

Recreation and parks: In addition to the many waterfront activities available to residents, there's also the Cape St. Claire Swim Club, playgrounds, picnic areas and a clubhouse that is available for special events.

Cape St. Claire
by the numbers
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*Information based on sales during the past 12 months, compiled by Mona LaCovey with Re/Max Advantage Realty and Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

Correction: An earlier version of this story listed the incorrect middle school for Cape St. Claire.

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