Carr’s Beach in Annapolis. Photo by Josh Kurtz.

MD - Officials: Acquisition of historic Black-owned beach highlights new state parks initiative

Carr’s Beach in Annapolis is an almost mythological name in Maryland history – one of a few Black-owned beaches along the Severn River that became a regular stop for top-flight performers on the “Chitlin Circuit” during the Jim Crow era, as well as a place of recreation for families shut out of the region’s segregated beaches.

Today, there isn’t much evidence that the place ever existed, except for a small spit of sand and a few historical signs along a wood-chip path off a side road near a bustling boatyard.

But within a year or so, that will change. With substantial financial help from the federal, state and Anne Arundel County governments, as well as a few nonprofits, the City of Annapolis recently purchased a six-acre plot of land that includes the beach, and local officials plan to build a waterfront park there that will pay tribute to the area’s history.

“This land will now be a place for everybody,” Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley (D) said Thursday.

Buckley was one of several state and local officials and community leaders who gathered at the spot to tout the collaborative effort to buy and preserve the property and hail it as a shining example of a new state initiative to preserve and protect parkland.

The Great Maryland Outdoors Act, which passed during the most recent General Assembly session, was introduced in response to the great demands placed on state parks during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Marylanders flocked to outdoor recreation spaces that often became overrun by crowds. The measure provides an additional $162 million for the maintenance and acquisition of parkland and to hire more workers at state parks.

“It’s the largest historical investment in state parks in our history,” said state Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City).

The bill’s sponsors – House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery) and Sen. Sarah Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel), who represents Annapolis – were on hand, along with former Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D), who, with Elfreth and Luedtke, headed a commission that produced the legislation. Glendening, who lives just a few coves south of Carr’s Beach, said it’s rare to see such a substantive piece of legislation move through the General Assembly so quickly and with near-unanimous support.

All the speakers said the new initiative would improve and expand parkland, preserve Maryland history, prevent sprawl, and help fight climate change at a time when the use of state parks has doubled in less than a decade.

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