OCEAN PINES – Residents who live near the Whitetail Sanctuary crabbing pier shared various concerns regarding the amenity with Ocean Pines Association officials last week.
At a meeting of the association’s board of directors July 27, Whitetail Sanctuary residents cited traffic and safety concerns associated with the crabbing pier, which is currently closed and in need of repair. They told the board they didn’t want to see it repaired but rather converted to a nature preserve.
“At the end of the day we want to repurpose this so it works for the area it’s located in,” said neighborhood resident Cheryl Bissell.
Earlier this year, Ocean Pines officials closed the crabbing pier located off Charleston Road when they determined it was in need of immediate repair. Though officials have been preparing to issue a request for proposals from firms to address the pier, a group of residents from Whitetail Sanctuary advocated for a different course of action at the July 27 board meeting. Resident Michael Galello told the board that while everyone liked the idea of a crabbing pier, the difference was that Whitetail Sanctuary residents had it in their backyard.
“The individuals who want to save it don’t have the problems we have,” he said.
He said that while the pier — which was built in 1997 — was intended for Pines residents, it was used by a significant number of outsiders as well. He said it was also used at night and that people drank alcohol and littered on the pier as well as the lengthy wooden walkway leading out to it.
“It’s difficult because of its remote location to manage,” Galello said, adding that residents had also seen people urinating, smoking marijuana and engaging in sexual activities, among other things.
He said the gravel pull-off near the pier entrance was large enough for just one vehicle and that visitors instead parked along the road and used residents’’ driveways to turn around. Galello said a recent Whitetail Sanctuary neighborhood meeting included a poll asking residents whether they wanted to see the pier and walkway turned into a nature preserve, similar to the elevated boardwalk at Assateague Island National Seashore, or rebuilt. Of the 49 residents present, Galello said 41 voted to convert the pier to a nature preserve.
Piedmont Court resident Brent Lounge said that amounted to 86 percent of neighborhood residents who wanted to see the pier converted.
“I live 150 feet from the entrance to this pier,” he said. “I see each and every day what goes on. You literally have one parking spot. I have seen eight to 10 cars parked up Charleston Road.”
Lounge said the association could relocate the crabbing pier to the community’s swim and racquet club, which had a large parking lot and restrooms.
“It would take this issue away,” he said.
Neighborhood resident Jennifer Wagner said her home backed up to Manklin Creek.
“I can see and hear everything that happens on that pier,” she said. “Sound carries very well over the water.”
She said the situation was frustrating for everyone involved.
“We, the property owners in the Sanctuary, are not an elitist group with a mission to keep our fellow Ocean Pines residents out of the neighborhood,” she said. “We love crabbing. We love fishing. We love children. However, we are approaching a point of crisis.”
She said the pier hadn’t been built for public use.
“The pier was originally intended to be an amenity for the subdivision only,” she said. “It was constructed as such. Therein lies much of the problem. Once it became advertised as the Ocean Pines Association crab pier for residents and guests, it was doomed.”
She said the area simply did not have the infrastructure to support public use of the pier.
Members of the board thanked residents for their feedback but made no decision regarding the pier’s future. They instructed staff to continue drafting a request for proposals, something they said would just help them gather information, and agreed to set the issue aside until after this month’s election.
“We’ll have to look at it once the new board is in place,” said Doug Parks, president of the board.