Maryland - County must open private beach to public
MAYO, Md. - After three decades of allowing a community association private water access on public land at Beverly Beach, Anne Arundel County must either open the 7 acres to the public or find the same amount of land elsewhere to open to the public.
Anne Arundel County has been in violation of state and federal grant requirements for three decades, and now must remedy the situation at Beverly Beach, the Department of Natural Resources wrote in a letter Aug. 1.
The county plans on making improvements to the 341-acre Beverly Triton Nature Park on the Mayo peninsula, and sent a letter to DNR June 24 listing $1.25 million in state funding for the project in its fiscal 2020 Program Open Space plan.
But when applying for Program Open Space or federal Land and Water Conservation Fund money, the county left out some information, DNR Director of Land Acquisition and Planning Heidi Dudderar said in the letter. The county didn’t say that it leases 7.1 acres of that parcel to the Beverly Beach Community Association, which operates that land as a private beach and park. That lease has been in place since 1986, a year after the county bought the land using public open space money.
State and federal money comes with a provision that the land stay in public recreation or open space use forever.
A fence separates that portion of the park from the other 300-plus acres, and signs are posted saying only community residents and their guests can use that 7-acre parcel, which includes a parking lot and about 1,860 feet of shoreline. Dudderar said that puts the county in violation of its grant requirements.
They have the option of ending or amending the lease in a way that allows for public access, or asking DNR and the National Park Service to convert the use of the property. According to a Program Open Space manual, that means replacing the converted land with land of equivalent area and recreation or open space value.
Wednesday county officials will meet with the Beverly Beach Community Association to discuss concerns and a plan of action to “strike a balance” between residents and the county’s legal obligation, County Executive Steuart Pittman said in a statement.
The community’s use of the beach predates the park by a decade or more. In 1972, the land was deeded to a private third party, according to the DNR letter. The deed maintained the residents’ right to use the beach, however, and they sued and received an amended decree in 1979 allowing them to use the beach.
The community and the county started their lease agreement in 1986, a year after the county purchased the land.
In his statement, Pittman said the beach is still closed to the public and asked that users access the nature park from the entrance off Beverly-Triton Road.