By Sandra Zunino
One of the few surviving icons of Kent Island days gone by, The Matapeake Clubhouse will soon shelter visitors once more.
Built by the Claiborne Annapolis Ferry Company, in her day she served ferry patrons as a terminal and waiting station. Unofficially, the Matapeake Clubhouse became a gathering spot for locals, but with the opening of the Bay Bridge in 1952, she was out of a job.
For many years, the Maryland State Marine Police Academy used the grounds as a shooting range, but the elements took their toll on the clubhouse and the shoreline suffered erosion.
Fortunately in 1999, funding from the Department of Natural Resources’ Program Open Space provided a spark of hope for the old building. Queen Anne’s County Parks and Recreation leased the 22.5-acre park from the State of Maryland and embarked on a project that would take nearly a decade to see completion. Groundbreaking for the restoration took place in 2006.
“This is probably the most difficult project the parks department has ever undertaken,” says Gary Rzepecki, chief of operation for QAC Parks & Recreation, “but the end result is priceless.” According to Gary, the project changed hands frequently and there were several regulations that had to be adhered to due to the historical nature of the building.
After many delays, the Matapeake Clubhouse and beach will celebrate its grand opening on Sunday, April 26 at 1:00 p.m. Originally scheduled for Saturday, April 25, organizers moved the event to accommodate schedules of speakers who will address spectators at the ceremony including Commissioner Courtney Billups.
Local historian Nick Hoxter will give a historical presentation inside the clubhouse. Nancy Scozzari, landscape architect/planner of QAC Parks & Recreation, originally in charge of the restoration, consulted Nick for input on the park’s potential. Photos from Nick’s collection of historic pictures will be on display for the grand opening.
Even though the grand opening was postponed, the park will still be open to the public for the first time on Saturday, April 25 from 9:00 a.m. to sunset and will maintain these hours daily through the season. The new public beach consists of approximately 350 feet of waterfront sand that will be sifted daily with a sifter purchased specifically for the park. While swimming will be allowed, it will be at the swimmers’ own risk as there will be no lifeguard on duty.
Also on the grounds is an outdoor amphitheatre. “The recreation department plans to use the park as a venue for outdoor concerts,” says Carrie P. Fredland, recreation program coordinator, QAC Parks & Recreation. The first Concert by the Bay is scheduled for June 6, featuring a performance by XPD’s Band and Show, known for blues, jazz, pop, rock and R&B.
In addition to restoring the 1500-square-foot Clubhouse, a café has been added to provide moderately priced sandwiches, salads, hot dogs, hamburgers and other casual entrees, snacks and beverages. The Café will be open 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and weekends from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Seating is available inside as well as outside on the patio.
Because the picturesque Clubhouse, with it’s sweeping views, graceful columns, lofty ceilings and original hardwood floors would be a perfect spot for weddings and other engagements, QAC Parks & Recreation will rent the clubhouse and grounds for private functions.
Other amenities include free parking, nearby lighted fishing pier and boat ramp, public restrooms and a one-mile wooded trail leading down to the Bay. For more information about the Matapeake Beach and Clubhouse, Concerts By the Bay and park rental fees, visit www.parksnrec.org/matapeake-beach-a-clubhouse.com or call 410-758-0835 x2517.