Several times a week, I read some article from the Chesapeake Bay news feed decrying the shrinking islands of Bay, and how climate change is creating the first new refugees of a wave of people fleeing the rising seas. But what happens when government tries to rebuild those islands (largely as a by product of dredging to keep Baltimore Harbor from silting in solid? Somebody gets upset because they're destroying their view of the Bay: Md. island reclamation threatens nearby property owner
Paul Zelinske, the owner of the marina, watches the boats sailing back and forth in the distance. He’s had this view since 1995, when he and his wife, Tracey, bought the marina property, where they live full-time.That's Jefferson Island, nestled in the "crook" in Poplar Island.
Zelinske said he and his wife “fell in love with the place” and bought the marina for the “million-dollar view.” Now, tourists and visitors come each year to stay in one of the 10 guest rooms, eat at the restaurant and bar or spend time on the beach and enjoy the dusk. “Everybody says it, I mean they come out here and take pictures ... it’s a spectacular place to watch the sun set,” he said. “It’s really neat.”
But a nearby construction project – the Paul S. Sarbanes Ecosystem Restoration Project at Poplar Island – is taking away what makes his properties special, he said.
In 2001, the Zelinskes paid about $300,000 to take partial ownership of Jefferson Island, a piece of land just a 10-minute boat ride away from the marina, and about a half-mile from Poplar Island.
A five-bedroom main house and a three-bedroom guest house sit on Jefferson Island, formerly known as the “playground of presidents,” where Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman spent holidays.Poplar Island, as seen from Chesapeake Bay last summer. There's pretty good fishing around around it at times.
In recent years, Poplar Island has been the site of dredge spoil disposal for Baltimore Harbor dredging. When that area is full, the plans are to move on to other islands, including James, the island eroding into the bay across from us, Barren (which we fished yesterday). In time, vegetation will take over Poplar, and the rip rap the holds the shore will melt into the landscape (if it's not removed by the government first), and the view will be much the same as it was when Spanish Explorer Juan Menendez de Marques first found it in 1573.
Since purchasing Jefferson Island, they’ve invested about $1 million in it, Zelinske said, including installing a well for fresh water, a septic system and a generator for electricity. He added that at some point, he’d like to move permanently to the island, which has all of the necessities as well as the tranquility that drove him to buy it in the first place.
Turning back to the horizon in front of him, he raises his hands, pointing to part of what is now a scenic vista, and breaks the silence: “At least three quarters of my view of that open bay is going to be gone.”
“Having an island is supposed to be what we bought it for: having peace and serenity,” Zelinske said, “and they’re destroying that.”
In 1847, Poplar Island spanned 1,140 acres, according to the Maryland Port Administration. But by 1993, just before the Zelinskes bought Lowes Wharf Marina, years of rising sea levels and land erosion shrunk Poplar to just five acres.