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Joppatowne rocked by marina's plans to close

The company that owns Gunpowder Cove Marina, which has been in Joppatowne for decades, has told boaters it will close later this year.
The company that owns Gunpowder Cove Marina, which has been in Joppatowne for decades, has told boaters it will close later this year. (BRYNA ZUMER | AEGIS STAFF / Baltimore Sun)

First, the Mariner Point Swim Club shut its doors two years ago. Now, Joppatowne could face another blow, as the community's only marina is in danger of closing.

Boaters at Gunpowder Cove Marina were disappointed to get letters telling them all boats must be gone by the start of November.

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The marina on the Gunpowder River was taken over by the MarineMax chain in 2008, according to Harford County tax records. The company, which is based in Clearwater, Fla., did not respond to requests for comment about the closing.

"They are leaving us high and dry," Bill Moore, a Joppatowne resident since 1965, said while preparing to drive out of the marina Wednesday.

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"The previous owner was excellent," Moore said. "You had to wait a year to get a slip here."

After MarineMax took over the marina, prices shot up and the marina became a shadow of its former self, Moore said.

"The only improvement they made was putting in this electric gate," he said, adding the marina closing is a sign of other neighborhood problems.

"They lost the [swim club] pool, they lost this place, the neighborhood is changing," he said of the Joppatowne community.

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Dion Guthrie, a Joppatowne resident and former county councilman, who has long been active in the community, said the marina shut down its maintenance shop two years ago. The marina has been in Joppatowne for 35 to 40 years, he said.

The closure will also mean local boaters will have nowhere to get gas, Guthrie said, explaining the closest gas appears to be in Middle River in Baltimore County.

Guthrie, who keeps his boat on his own property, said he is trying to get together a group of about five people who will try to purchase or rent the 10.5-acre property from MarineMax.

He said, however, that a representative from MarineMax told him that, "regardless of rumors, it's not for sale or lease."

"A lot of people have contacted me because I am a boater myself, and the worst thing is, there's no gas," Guthrie said.

Moore, who lives on Joppatowne's Rumsey Island, said he will probably just keep his boat by his home in the future.

County Councilman Mike Perrone, who represents Joppatowne and succeeded Guthrie on the council last December, said most of the marina's users seem to be from out of town, and its presence may be more sentimental than anything else.

"The nostalgic part of me, the part that grew up in Joppatowne, would like to see another marina, but a lot of people who I talked to in Joppatowne either live on Rumsey Island or Foster Branch," he said, noting those residents mostly have their own boat slips.

Still, losing the marina "would definitely be a blow to the community, no doubt about that," Perrone said.

Assuming the marina leaves, Perrone nevertheless said he isn't too worried about the future look of Joppatowne's waterfront.

"There's a lot of people in Joppatowne who want to see another marina, but then others just want to see something thriving," he said. "Long-term, I think that property's prospects are probably OK."

"I think it's more of a matter of seeing what kind of investor is going forward, of the kind of project that could go forward," he added. "It's not so much what I want, it's what an investor is willing to back."

The community is also home to Mariner Point Park, a county-owned property, which is popular with kayakers and other outdoor enthusiasts, not just Joppatowne residents.

A number of waterfront homes are for sale in Joppatowne which, along with Havre de Grace, is among the top 20 ZIP codes in the mid-Atlantic Region with homes with boat docks on the market, according to a recent report by the MRIS Homes real estate home search website run by state real estate associations.

Across Riviera Drive from the marina, the former home of the Mariner Point Swim Club, a landmark in Joppatowne since the 1960s, sits empty since its former owners shut the doors on the 4.53-acre property and eventually sold it to Southern Baptist Church of Baltimore.

Despite efforts by community leaders to interest Harford County in buying the property for a community pool and activities center, the church acquired it for $679,000 in February 2014, according to tax records.

"There are really no updates on the pool property, other than we are still pursuing to build our church there and otherwise maintain the upkeep. We notice the grass grows pretty fast," Rev. Donte Hickman said Thursday, adding the church is planning to have a Sept. 11 revival service on the property.

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