(The Center Square) – Once, it was a place where such renowned acts as Chuck Berry, Billie Holiday, Little Richard, and The Temptations made stops on their music tours. It also gained notoriety as a beach for the Black community when segregation was taking place.
An effort has been underway to preserve the deeply rooted Carr’s Beach site in Annapolis, with advocates expressing interest in taking steps toward ensuring it remains a vibrant public space for decades to come.
The Maryland Board of Public Works on April 27 approved a $5.2 million spending request from the state Department of Natural Resources to acquire 5.16 acres to help develop a new waterfront park at the site. The allocation will assist the City of Annapolis in transforming the property into a municipal park.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford served as a voting member on the three-person board at the recent meeting, filling in for Gov. Larry Hogan.
“This is somewhat personal for me because my mom went to Carr’s Beach when she was younger,” Rutherford said at the meeting. “I’m very proud that (the land acquisition) is taking place.”
Carr’s Beach attained its name because of the property ownership at the height of the venue’s popularity. The Carr family owned both the namesake beach and Sparrow’s Beach.
Black musicians made Carr’s Beach a frequent stop for multiple decades, spanning the 1930s and 1960s. It also was one of the few resorts along the Chesapeake Bay that served the Black community at a time when segregation was still legal.
“I had heard the stories about Carr’s Beach and am grateful to be able to preserve this portion of what once was one of the few places that African Americans could go to the beach and entertainment venues,” Rutherford said of the DNR’s plans.
In a memo, DNR officials described the 5.16-acre site as an “unimproved parcel” that is currently situated in a largely wooded area. One of its greatest draws is the 300 feet of sandy beach area that still provides direct waterfront access to the Chesapeake Bay.
“This addition will allow walking paths and public water access, where public water access is currently limited,” the memo states. “This acquisition will also protect an unimproved parcel from development.”
Based on the terms the Board of Public Works approved, the acquisition will serve as a collaborative effort between agencies under the umbrella of the State of Maryland, Anne Arundel County, and the City of Annapolis.
The state’s 52-year-old Program Open Space initiative serves as the mechanism for the park improvement project. When it was established in 1969, the program was touted to allocate funds toward conserving natural resource spaces and promoting outdoor recreation.
The spending package for the Carr’s Beach site includes $3.66 million in state Program Open Space funding, with the balance anticipated in Maryland’s fiscal year 2023 budget in an area dedicated to local parks and playgrounds infrastructure.
According to documents in the Board of Public Works packet, two firms were enlisted to appraise the property with valuations ranging from $6.45 million to $5.6 million.