Hal Ashman grew up in Randallstown and for years thought the only way he could enjoy a day at the beach was to make a three-hour trek to Ocean City.
That was 26 years ago.
Now, Ashman lives in eastern Baltimore County and operates Ultimate Watersports. He is also the chairman of the Baltimore County Conference & Tourism Advisory Council.
A staunch advocate for local waterways, Ashman has for years tried to convince Baltimore County residents of the benefits of staying close to home to enjoy the area’s natural resources.
“You can enjoy a day at the beach here and keep the money in Baltimore County instead of spending it all in Ocean City,” Ashman said.
Now, Ashman is getting a lot of support for his cause as Baltimore County on Wednesday launched its “Beach Break: Be there, 30 minutes or less” campaign with a news conference at Miami Beach in Bowleys Quarters.
With more than 200 miles of shoreline along with 70 marinas, waterfront golfing and dining, the county is using the promotion as a way of encouraging “staycations” for families looking for leisure activities without spending too much money.
As part of the campaign, the county Department of Recreation and Parks announced that children 11 and under are now admitted free at county beaches, while state beaches cost $4 a person.
Those county beaches besides Miami Beach are located at Rocky Point in Middle River and Oregon Ridge in Cockeysville. The state beaches located in the county are located at Gunpowder Falls Beach at Hammerman and North Point State Park Beach.
“No matter where you are in Baltimore County, whether right here in Middle River or in Woodlawn or Hereford, you could be at any one of our five beautiful beaches in 30 minutes or less,” Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said.
“So why stress about a long trip to the ocean when right here in Baltimore County you can take a mini-beach vacation and still be home in time to fire up the grill and then get to sleep in the comfort of your own bed?”
Baltimore County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins is among those excited about the promotion. She points to fishing options like those at the Big Gunpowder River and the Loch Raven Fishing Center, along with annual events like the Marine Trades Association of Baltimore County-sponsored Fourth of July fireworks display, set for July 2 in front of the Eastern Yacht Club, as just a few of the many activities water enthusiasts can enjoy locally.
In addition, the county is home to 26 waterfront parks, encompassing more than 10 miles of shoreline with amenities that include seven boat ramps with access the Chesapeake Bay, 14 fishing piers, walking paths and trails, picnic facilities, playgrounds, ball fields, sand volleyball courts and beaches.
Bevins, an Oliver Beach Democrat, also has fond memories of Miami Beach—she recalls taking her daughter there for daily excursions more than 30 years ago. She is glad the county is putting resources behind this promotion so residents know it’s OK to go back to Miami Beach. It was closed at one point due to bacterial pollution caused by fecal matter from ducks.
“I encourage all residents to take advantage of [the promotion] and create your own memories,” Bevins said. “This is the perfect example of doing more with less.”
Principal Sharon Whitlock also hopes parents use the promotion as a way of exposing more area children to local beaches and waterways.
The school administrator, along with a group of third-grade students from the school, helped kick off the beach program by participating in a hula-hoop contest at Miami Beach with Kamentz and Bevins.
“These beaches are some of the best-kept secrets in Baltimore County,” Whitlock said. “Many people in the area hear you’re going to Miami Beach and they think you’re in Florida. This is a great program for local children and their families.”