From the Chesapeake Bay, the Carr's and Sparrow's beaches--once a thriving resort--look nearly untouched by civilization.
The half-mile of shoreline south of the Maryland capital is one of the rare stretches in Anne Arundel County still open to the public. On weekends, the two beaches are havens for fishermen and treasure seekers.
But the quiet is soon to be broken. A development company has passed two of three zoning hurdles needed to turn Carr's and Sparrow's into a year-round community with condominium and apartment units, a hotel and marina. Construction is to begin shortly.
The half-dozen families who rent cabins year-round along the beaches say it will end a way of life they can't hope to duplicate in this area.
Named for the two families who operated the now-closed resorts, the beaches on Bembe Point had begun to revert to their natural state. Anne Arundel has 431 miles of waterfront, only seven of them accessible to the public.
Washington area developer Jerome Parks, through his Duck's Run Partnership, already has bought about 24 acres of Sparrow's Beach and plans to buy the remaining Carr's Beach to create a resort called the Village of Chesapeake Harbour. The 52-acre development will include a 200-slip marina, 404 condominiums and a 60-unit hotel and apartment complex built around an eight-acre lake.
Parks is buying the property from William L. (Little Willie) Adams, who is awaiting trial in Baltimore on gambling charges stemming from the breakup of a gambling ring in 1979.
Mary Jo Steetle, a spokeswoman for Parks, said the waterfront property with direct access to the bay and a sandy beach will make their development "unique." All the buildings will have a waterfront view and the condominiums will sell for between $87,000 and $160,000, she said.
Parks is developing the property at one-half the allowed density and has worked with surrounding communities to come up with a low-rise design, she said. Steetle said Parks had not decided what to do with the six log cabins, but original plans called for them to be destroyed.
County officials say they are satisfied Chesapeake Harbour will be well-planned, but that is little comfort to the renters or fishermen.
The renters live in log cabins in a secluded grove at the northern end of the beach, shielded from sight by old trees and a hill of sea grass.
There is a pioneer spirit of neighbors helping neighbors and of people living with nature. Residents talk of the wild animals and snakes with affection. They describe themselves as "mellowed out" and happy to be tucked away from the buzz of 20th century life.
"It's like living in another world," said Robin Woodard, who has raised four children in the area.
"It's been a real magic place to live," said neighbor Kathy Freeman, who has six children.
Woodard said her cabin, believed to have been built in the late 1920s, is in the middle of the site for the condominium complex. She said she's trying to toughen herself to the idea of giving up her home of 14 years to the bulldozers, but she worries about how it will affect her children to be thrown back into civilization. "I won't live in an apartment," she said determinedly.
It will be hard to even find an apartment for the $150 a month she pays for her home, Woodard said.
Howard and Kathy Freeman also worry for their children, the last of whom was born in their cabin.
"The kids live on the beach all summer," Kathy Freeman said. "When they get out in the real world, they'll be in for a real shocker."
The children do not worry about running in the road, Freeman said, because there is none. There is always a neighbor nearby to hear them should they encounter trouble, he added, and in the summer, they occupy themselves catching fish and crabs.
Fifty yards up from the Freemans, bordering the new development, are a clutch of summer houses long owned by families who remember Carr's Beach in its heyday as a resort.
One resident, whose parents, aunts and uncles 25 years ago bought the house she now lives in, remembers listening to music that blared from the pavilion on the beach. Her parents would not allow her to go down, however, so she would sneak out while they played canasta on summer evenings.
Carr's Beach's modest pavilion was the site in the 1960s of concerts by soul artists, such as James Brown and Otis Redding, who played to crowds from Washington, Baltimore and elsewhere. Today, the iron frame of the pavilion is a rusty reminder of that time, surrounded by brush, wildflowers and broken beer bottles.