The Story of Arundel-on-the-Bay
Sixth installment
March 2009

Ex-President Wilma Coble: Background on the Fight Against Shore Erosion

Wilma Coble served as President of the Association from 1980 to 1983 and again from 1992 to 1994; she was also Chair of the AotB Board from  1983 to 1987. Ms. Coble and her husband Clyde have been property owners in the community since 1971. Their present home was built in 1981.

Ms. Coble reports that the most pressing problem of her administration was posed by shore erosion on the bayside of the peninsula. The battle was actually begun during the presidency of Willie McManus in the late 1970s. Mr. McManus ordered completed plans by the Andrews and Miller engineering firm, but work was delayed for five more years. Transportation of the large rocks required for shoreline bulk-heading posed a problem; shipping them by water proved too costly, and some residents were reluctant to grant access to heavy transport over their property.

In the interim, under Dr. George Snowden's presidency, Anne Arundel County installed our sewage system, ushering in a period of rapid growth for AotB, with new, year-round housing and an upsurge in the number of permanent residents. Erosion then became a serious matter for an increasing number of people.

Making the erosion fight her major priority, Wilma Coble managed to obtain grants of access from all owners whose property was needed for stockpiles of the precious rock.

Then came the problem of funding. The State of Maryland had previously approved a $200,000 interest-free loan, but because of delays in getting the work started, the money was diverted to other communities more immediately prepared to implement their projects. With the help of then Congressman Tom McMillen and our own Dr. Aris T. Allen (among others), the original funding was restored.  But during the lapse between design and implementation, the cost of the project had inflated to $400,000. To make up the balance, Wilma and Clyde sponsored a fund-raising dinner at their home for Governor Harry Hughes who was then running for a second term. Governor Hughes learned of the need for complementary funding and, "within a short time the money was made available." 

Working closely with the State's Department of Natural Resources and the County's financial office, the project entered its bidding phase, with the award of a contract to Crandall Marine Contractors. Work began on the shoreline in June 1981. Ms. Coble estimates this as "the largest community project yet undertaken in the State of Maryland."

Subsequently, other erosion control efforts included stone bulkheads on the southwest end of Narragansett Avenue (costing c. $54,000) and bulkhead repair along Magnolia Avenue. A low profile bulkhead and, later, stone revetments, were constructed at the community beach at a cost of $47,000. Two offshore breakwaters and additional sand completed the beach protection effort.

Protection of the peninsula's shores has thus been an accepted principle for funding from both taxes and bond issues in AotB, a Special Taxation District of the County. Keeping the Chesapeake where it is remains a priority for the entire community, residents of the littoral as well as the interior.