Nature’s Concerns Ultimately Will Win Out

Nature’s Concerns Ultimately Will Win Out

The days of cookouts and recreational enjoyment are seemingly numbered for a sandy spit in the coastal bays watershed that has taken on the unofficial name of “Flag Island.”

Back in July, we were the first to report on the grassroots effort by a local boat captain to erect a flag pole on the restored island. Even before the flag arrived but particularly after, the island was hosting dozens of recreational boaters every day. Later solar lights were added to the flag pole, adding to the island’s mystique.

There is a certain joy with jumping off a boat and enjoying a summer day on an island in the middle of the bay with some of the most unique vistas around. Families with youngsters have found particular enjoyment this summer. A clear affinity has developed among those who enjoy it and a Facebook page — Keepers of the Flag — and a website have been created to try and keep the recreational options available amid regulatory challenges.

The rub here is its current use is unlikely to continue because the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Army Corps of Engineers partnered last winter to build up this island for nesting birds using the dredged spoils from local canal dredging projects. Many of the migratory birds, such as terns and skimmers, are either endangered or threatened

“These islands are already part of the Sinepuxent Bay Wildlife Management Area,” said the DNR’s Jonathan McKnight last week. “It’s not some new world where one can plant a flag and claim it. This island was built specifically for nesting habitat for endangered or threatened migratory birds.”

Still, there is a hope for a compromise among island supporters. Their counter argument is taxpayer dollars were used to create this large island and that the citizens who helped fund it should be able to enjoy it as well. The hope is for a solution that makes everyone happy.

Chuck Idol, a spokesman for the Keepers of the Flag group — numbering about 800, unofficially — hopes it’s that simple.

“It’s a very positive thing that happened from a dredging experience, and we just would like to see it remain open for public access. We’re not trying to be adversarial and create this ‘us versus them’ situation. We just think there might be some compromise or solution,” he told this paper last week.

It appears the only “compromise” available is that the boaters will be able to enjoy it for the rest of this summer, but all indications are that will not be the case next year. What will happen to the flag, the pole and its concrete base? More than likely it will be removed over the off-season when it will not create as much of a public stir.

The good news is there are other island-like options for the boaters, although they may not carry the same appeal. The northern tip of Assateague is always a popular spot for boaters as well as just east of Hooper’s on low-tide days. Every now and again some boaters will set up for the day just north of the St. Martin’s stretch of the Route 90 Bridge as well.

We applaud the wonderful patriotic effort that took place on the island this summer. It was inspiring and exciting to witness, but the intent of the restoration project is important and it will in the end win out as the top priority.