Jetties and offshore breakwaters will be built this fall at Point Lookout State Park in St. Mary's County to help shield the popular Chesapeake Bay beach from severe erosion, according to state officials.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) announced last week that the state Board of Public Works had approved $789,700 for an erosion control project at the Hammond Day Use Area in the park, located where the Potomac River flows into the bay.
The state board also approved $533,000 for building renovations at King's Landing Park in Calvert County. The natural resources park is home to the county school system's environmental education program.
The funds, from the state's Program Open Space, will be administered through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
"Upgrading these parks will improve the quality of life for all Southern Maryland residents," Glendening said.
"Residents and visitors will be able to enjoy vastly enhanced parks with better facilities. We will also protect the beautiful views from Point Lookout by building breakwaters for the shoreline," the governor said.
The Point Lookout project will involve construction of seven massive stone breakwaters that will be 80 to 90 feet long, 50 feet wide, and rise four feet above water. The breakwaters will be positioned in a row 100 feet apart about 150 feet offshore, according to Tom Brower, project manager for the state Department of Natural Resources.
The beach used to be a deep, sandy beach, said Brower, who has compared geological survey charts of Point Lookout from 1849 to 1942. During that 93-year period, the beach lost 200 feet of shoreline to erosion, or about two feet a year, he said.
In recent years, that rate of erosion has more than doubled because sand that would have naturally sifted from other areas and settle at the Point Lookout beach has not done so because of erosion-control projects elsewhere, Brower said. He estimated that the beach currently is eroding at a rate of about five feet of shoreline a year.
"It was an area that really needed to be addressed," Brower said. "It has receded more and more."
To help restore the beach immediately, more than 3,000 cubic yards of sand will be spread at the site.
In addition to the breakwaters, workers will build 65-foot-long jetties north of the swimming beach, Brower said. This also will help prevent sand from leaving the beach, he said.
To the south of the beach, a stone retaining wall will be built along 836 feet of river bank, and behind it, a sandy walkway will be added, Brower said.
"I'm glad to hear the funding went through," said an elated Keith Frere, park manager for Point Lookout. The beach "is definitely an asset," Frere said.
Point Lookout State Park is 1,040 acres of wooded land, marshes and beach on the farthest point of St. Mary's County. Last year, the park received 450,000 visitors, more than any other state park in Southern Maryland, Frere said. About 100,000 people visited the beach area last year.
"We started to think about this project six years ago and then we got serious. We did reports and tried to get the money appropriated," Frere said.
King's Landing is a 260-acre property on the Patuxent River. Established as a YMCA camp in the 1950s, the site was acquired by the state in 1984 and turned over to the county for management.
The King's Landing funds will be used to convert an old dining hall into a multipurpose building with offices, restrooms, a warming kitchen, storage rooms and a 2,950-square-foot great room. The great room, which will be used for meetings, will be connected to two observation terraces by a 2,000-square-foot patio.
"It's been a successful partnership between the state and county," said Dwight Williams, chief of the Calvert County Natural Resources Division, the county agency that has been managing the park.
Through the years, the county has made significant improvements at King's Landing, Williams said. Roads were repaved, a maintenance office and new restroom building were built, and picnic shelters were added.
The county's environmental education program teaches kids about ecosystems and wildlife, Williams said. The program will run more smoothly with new offices and facilities, he said.