A gamefish leaped from the water, then disappeared backinto the shallow tidal pond. Overhead, a bald eagle flewover the marsh grass and tall trees ringing the water. John Pare gazed at the quiet scene from the banks, then peered at the blueprint he was carrying.
"Right now," he said "we're standing on top of two 96-unit apartment buildings."
The buildings on the blueprint are still a figment of a developer's imagination, an if Pare, who lives nearby, has his way, they will never sprout on this semirural peninsula on Chesapeake Bay 35 miles from Washington.
Some of their fears are admittedly speculative, others seem alarmingly real. "You have to understand we're very emotional about this," explained Edna Schmitt, treasurer of the Mayo Civic Association. "It will come to the point where people won't feel free with their children here if we allow it to be devasted."
In their battle against development, the residents of the Mayo peninsula have come lay experts in environment law and sophisticated in the ways of the media, issuing press releases to the likes of Jack Anderson and Mike Wallace.
The battle line has been drawn over the issue of sewage treatment. Residents who a few years ago fought for centralized sewaged treatment beacuse of failing septic systems and unsafe well-water changed course when Chesapeake Bay Village loomed on the horizon. They now seek smaller alternative methods of waste treatment which, they hope, will forestall big development.
If the developer has his way, the 2,447-unit Chesapeake bay Village will be the biggest thing to hit Maryland's Western Shore since slot machines the removal of which, some say, dealt a death blow to the resort economy of this area.
The proposed development, under present plans, would easily double this sleepy peninsula's population of 7,000 with the addition of eight-story and 14-story high-rises, townhouses, detached homes, a hotel, shops and a 280-slip marina on an L-shaped pier jutting into the Bay.
"The developer is very flexible," maintains Warren Rich, a former Maryland natural resources department lawyer who now represents the builder. "He's willing to accept what is environmentally sound. This guy is not a despoiler of the environment. He wants to work with these people."
But residents of this Anne Arundel County community, many of whom live in winterized summer cottages and commute to jobs in the Washington area, don't believe it.
They see themselves fighting for their way of life. In their minds, the huge project conjures visions of traffic jams, Ocean City-type beach erosion, big city crime and even the return of gambling in a kind of Atlantic city-by-the-bay.
They have won support from several local politicians and also from the federal government's Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, which would help any public plant, scaled down the original proposal.
The agency has also encouraged the county to look other innovative ways of handling sewage. These include decentralized treatment facilities feeding effluent into several manmade lagoons Present plans call for one big plant to dump waste water into the Bay where watermen now harvest oysters and crabs.
So the people of this peninsula have become savvy about sewers, in some cases almost to the point of obsession. "I went camping last summer to get away," said Edna Schmitt. "I wound up studying alternative sewer systems in the campgrounds."
The people are not wholly of one mind on the subject. Dr. William H. Choate, a seven-year resident of the Beverly Beach section, heads a group called Mayo Peninsula for Central Sewer. Its members, he said, are divided over development but united in their support of a "first-class sewer system."
To Choate, this means a central treatment plant. As for development, Choate says, "my personal view is I can co-exist with Chesapeake Village."
Long before Chesapeake Village appeared as glimmer in the corporate eye, there was the vision of Edgar SKalb. Kalb, now 82 and living in Towson, Md, acquired peninsula property in 1925 intending to build a water front subdivision. Almost as an after-thought, he built Beverly Beach, which grew in popularity faster than the subdivision. Beverly became so crowded that Kalb built a bath house and two or three pavillions and then bought and developed nearby Triton Beach.
Slot machines made the beaches immensely popular among those allowed to use them. Jews, blacks and persons of Southern European ancestry were excluded. "It was not based on bias; it was based on the way people were,"Kalb maintains. "It was the prevailing custom.
Kalb fought integration all the way to Congress, because my whole business was at stake." If integration had worked, he said, the beaches would have stayed open, "but the fact is that white people just stopped coming." When slots outlawed in the 1960s, he said, the beach business was finished.
The nettle net poles, stretched far into the Bay to protect swimmers from jelly fish, and a cavernous charred pavilion covered with shards of glass, are all that remains of the old beach resort.
This curious mixture of ghost town and warsh wilderness, say the Mayo opponents of Chesapeake Bay village, would make a perfect "passive" park.
Both the Anne Arundel County Council and County Executive Robert A. Pascal are on record in support of the idea. The hangup is money. Should the development fall through, the market value of the property has been estimated at between $5 million and $7 million. Pascal wants the state to pick up most of the tab.
The park issue aside, Pascal described the extent of the proposed development as "extreme" but permitted under a rezoning adopted before his administration.
Pascal and Chesapeake Bay Village opponents sound strident in describing each other. The residents view him as a closet supporter of development. They imagine all kinds of sinister plots involving politicians and developers they are certain lurk just behind public view.
"I think you've got some radicals down there that have distorted things and started rumours which are really unfounded," pascal said. "I'am just getting tired of all these insinuations.It's just gotten out of propotrtion."
Pascal, whose administration had sought to control growth, said, "We charged out to get the sewage treatment plant " for the peninsula because the people wanted it. "Then this other thing (Chesapeake Bay Village) came up." Pascal's support for a central sewage plant was no longer welcomed. "It's a paradox," he said.
Pascal said the issues of sewage treatment ane development should be separated. He wants a sewer system - and he is not now sure what kind - because of health hazards that exist. But should the county forgo its own system, he said, the developers could still build their own.
The developers, a New Jersey corporation that built the Meadowlands sports stadium in that state, are, meanwhile, slogging through the legal swamp: their plan requires five special zoning exceptions. So far, they have applied for and received two,but the citizens are appealing.
Residents think there is local money behind the project but evidence is lacking. The one major local stock-holder of record, Wilford T. Azar Jr., lost his stock in a personal bankruptcy proceeding. Considering all the hassles the project has entailed, Azar, who originated the project in 1972, pronounced himself "glad to be out of it."
On the peninsula, the developers and the residents are still very much in it. "I'm trying to protect this semi-rural way of life we've come to love down here." said resident Orvid Pratt, as he walked along Beverly Beach one day last week. "We don't want to see it destroyed."
That development may change the lifestyle to a limited degree," said Rich, the developer's lawyer, "but the whole purpose of the developer is to accommodate and enhance the environment, not degrade it."