Solutions come from private sector as O’Malley fails to act
PINEY POINT (SPECIAL) — After months of expectation and inaction on the part of the O’Malley Administration the Gregorian Fault shifted once again and this time left a 6 foot crack between the end of the St. George Island Bridge and the island making travel by vehicle onto the island for tourists and residents impossible.
At this time, while government officials stood by with their large red highway cones and flashing signs barring entry to the island, innovative residents of the island rigged a suspension footbridge to connect the island to the bridge.
Residents of the island purchased a truckload of used golf carts and have ferried the carts over the island on a small barge, providing a convenient method of travel while barging back their vehicles to the Piney Point side of the bridge and parking them in the county boat ramp area and along the shoulder of Rt. 249.
While a group of residents of the island had things pretty much under control, it was clear that many elderly residents were worried about their doctors visits, trips to stores and pharmacies and to local bingo games.
Commissioner Jackie Russell, who had convened a commissioner meeting on the island as a way of maintaining governmental authority to tax property, has reportedly moved off the island in a bid to maintain his residence in St. Mary’s County should the island continue its westward drift and actually become part of Virginia.
Russell faces a tough election battle with a grocery store tycoon and has reportedly told friends that if needed, he will rent a RV and live at Take it Easy Ranch.
There are no reports on Russell’s skipjack foundation losing its tax exempt status and the boat is planning to pick up travelers and tourists at the county boat ramp.
The Island Inn, formerly known as Evans Seafood and Rivercreek Lodge have engaged a charter boat to run shuttle service from the boat ramp to the popular island facility every 15 minutes and actually has seen a huge increase in business due to it’s customers getting a free boat ride included with their meal purchase.
All others taking the Island Inn Shuttle who don’t eat at the restaurant appear to be happy to pay the $5 fee just to enjoy the short ride on St. George Creek.
The local watermen who supply seafood to the restaurant are happy to have the place busy and also to have jobs working on the shuttle.
“Why couldn’t we have thought of this shuttle service before,” said Ronald T. Bug Evans IV, a great-grandson of the founder, who is the restaurant manager. “We stopped advertising in the Washington Post due to its high ad costs and now we don’t have to advertise anywhere but in The Chesapeake. We never really knew that all people wanted was that short boat ride included with dinner and we serve drinks and appetizers on the shuttle, we can hardly keep up with the demand.”
While business was brisk for the inn and tavern, not everyone else was pleased that Governor O’Malley failed to marshal the full resources of the state government to solve the island-separation crisis.
The delivery of fuel oil and propane has become expensive as a barge has to carry over all delivery trucks leaving a line of trucks in place every day at 8 am with sometimes as many as a dozen trucks waiting to be taken to the island one at a time.
The firms delivering goods are adding “waiting for the barge” surcharges to everything from FedEx to home heating oil, typically adding $25 to everything delivered.
One local teenager has begun a delivery service with his grandmother’s golf cart and simply takes internet orders from companies with small packages. But oil and propane have to be delivered only by company trucks, said a spokesman for SMO.
The Shah Associates has set up its own shuttle to meet the shuttle boat to bring its patients back and forth to the Bean Building while the county’s STS bus added an extra bus from Piney Point to Callaway.
A St. Mary’s deputy has been stationed at the island with a golf cart with blue lights on top of it as well as a fire truck from the Second District VFD and Rescue Squad barged over to the island.
A crew has been assigned to the island full time, but still angry island residents have been meeting each morning at 11 am with county and state officials at the St. George Island Improvement Association community building.
A Maryland official has pointed out to local residents that islands in other states have turned their offshore locations into superior advantages for the sale of property and tourism, pointing to Bald Head Island in North Carolina as an example.
But residents are fearful. They are afraid that once the island begins its inevitable drift to Virginia that the police and fire crews will leave and they will become targets of easy prey by local river rats who for the last 20 years rob homes and elude police by using boats.
“We are old, helpless and defenseless,” said Martha Byington, 68, of the island to a reporter.
But not all residents are fearful.
82-year-old Maxine Pennywhacker said that she and her dog are happy to patrol the island and she showed off her 9mm Glock that her son gave her and she wears in a shoulder holster, as well as a double barrel shotgun on a rack in her golf cart.
“We can take care of ourselves and I’m getting kinda tired of that young deputy giving me the evil eye when me and my dog Ralph travel the island at night,” said Maxine. “We can do just fine and save on paying that constable.”
Maxine noted that she doesn’t play golf and that rack intended for golf clubs comes in handy for her shotgun.