A stiff breeze came off the Chesapeake Bay and caught the big banner that proclaimed 1980 as "The Year of the Coast."
"I like the coast," said 10-year-old Alyssa Wolf of Greenbelt as she and her friend Christianne Mason, 11, struggled to carry the banner along the windy beach.
Canada geese crossed overhead in wavery Vs and sunlight broke through the clouds. "I like to look for seashells and shark's teeth," Alyssa said. "I saw 'Jaws' eight or nine times."
More than 100 birdwatchers, environmentalists and refugees from televised football games joined the two young girls today at Sandy Point State Park near here to christen what Jimmy Carter has officially proclaimed as "The Year of the Coast."
The midmorning walk through this little sanctuary of shoreline, ponds and sea oats tucked below the majestic span of the Bay Bridge was just one of 30 similar New Year's Day outings around the country. All were aimed at stopping the spread of unregulated development along the nation's 100,000 miles of coastline.
For some, it was a chance not only to show their concern for the nation's coastal regions, but the perfect remedy for too much champagne.
"It's the best way to beat a hangover I know," said Bethesda resident Ron Shoenfeld, studying canvasback and bufflehead ducks through binoculars."It's a nice way to start the new year."
But the meager selection of birds on display today left many of the birdwatchers disappointed. "The guide said we would feast our eyes," groused Talmage Bandy who drove over from Fairfax County with her husband Claude. "I told him we've seen more birds in our back yard."
There was one duck -- a dead one moldering on the beach -- that got some special attention when a blue-eyed Siberian husky named Pavlof bounced up and started to snarf around in the feathers.
"Pavlof!" screamed Christianne Mason. "Get away!"
It was an otherwise idyllic morning, and what the day lacked in birds, was made up for with crisp weather and panoramic views.
"People always go to the ocean for solace when they need to think," said Gray Jacobik of Silver Spring, "But in Florida, for instance, only 1 percent of the land is public. You can't go to the beach unless you register in a hotel."
"This is the overlap between the terrestial and the marine ecosystems," said environmentalist Peter Holmes of the National Resources Defense Council, skipping few flat stones out toward a large tanker moving up the bay. "This is a system in its own right. We're not very good stewards of it."
For supporters of coastal planning and stronger coastal legislation, a coalition of environmental, labor and other groups called the Coastal Alliance holds the hope that steps will be taken this year to reverse the destruction of the coast line.
"All kinds of things have been done over the last part of this century to destroy the coasts," said the alliance's executive director, Bill Painter of Washington. "We've destroyed 40 percent of the nation's wetlands. We've discharged sewage and industrial wastes. We've made futile attempts to stop the inevitable processes of coastal geology."
"The point," said Mike Glazer, a coastal specialist for the Commerce Department, "is to make sure we explicitly decide how we want to use these coastal areas."
Glazer swept his arms out toward the Eastern Shore. "There's no way you can measure the value of a day like this," he said. "Looking out at the ocean thinking about what 1980 is going to be like, you can't put that into an analysis."