- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 13, 2002

McHENRY, Md. For nearly 30 years, Charlie Crowe had a summer place on Deep Creek Lake. It was just a trailer, but his view of the water made him feel as rich as any lakeside homeowner.
That ended in April, when the owners of Glen Acres Resort told Mr. Crowe and his blue-collar neighbors to remove their trailers from one of the few undeveloped parcels around the 3,900-acre lake.
The truck salesman from Frostburg towed his 32-foot camper to Double G RV Park, the last such business in the area. The park is across U.S. 219 from the lake, and Mr. Crowe's new view is of a cornfield and a hill crowned by vacation homes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"I can't go out and put a half a million on a piece of land to put a million-dollar house on, and that's what Deep Creek Lake has turned into," Mr. Crowe said.
Mr. Crowe is afraid his trailer's former site is being cleared to make way for houses, although the owners have not filed any plans with the Garrett County planning and zoning office. An attorney for Glen Acres Resort, Cristine Sweitzer, did not return a call seeking comment.
Pushed out or torn down by a building boom increasingly fueled by speculative investment, camper trailers and rustic cabins have grown scarce around the Appalachian reservoir.
Because little lakeside land is left to develop, property values are soaring at a rate that astonishes longtime residents.
"We have homes in excess of a million dollars on the lake, many of them," County Commissioners Chairman Ernest J. Gregg, an Oakland pharmacist, said. "I remember when I heard about the first one [in 1996]. Now it's become commonplace."
He said many of those homes are "mini-lodges," with as many as six bedrooms and multiple master suites, designed for vacation rental.
"They're speculating. They're using them as investment income. Certainly, I'm no financial expert, but I've wondered if, because of the uncertainty of the stock market, people have shifted their investment money to other things. Because we are seeing a lot of this," he said.
Bill Taylor, who sells property in the area for Long & Foster Real Estate, said little log cabins have all but disappeared from the lake. They have been purchased in recent years for $300,000 or $400,000 and torn down because of the land value. He predicted that resale prices of existing homes would continue rising with the planned expansion of the nearby Wisp ski resort and development of an adventure sports complex in McHenry.
Dave and Lauretta Buscher, of Clarksville in Howard County, knew a good thing when they saw it on their first visit to Deep Creek Lake in September. In October, they purchased a five-bedroom lakeside home for $680,000 and plan to retire there.
"It was either going to be the oceans or the mountains," Mrs. Buscher said.
She said she and her husband, both in their 50s, go at least twice a month to Deep Creek Lake for family gatherings and don't plan to rent the place out.
Most of the families at the RV campground couldn't afford to rent, let alone buy, a lakeside home, Mr. Crowe said. Summertime rental rates run as high as $3,000 to $5,000 a week, compared with less than $1,000 a few years ago.
Former Glen Acres camper, Joyce Campbell, said she misses the lake access that she and her family treasured for 10 years. Mrs. Campbell, who worked as a secretary in Pittsburgh before retiring, now spends her winters in Florida.
"I could lie on my couch and look at the water," she said. "We thought we were there forever."
Glen Acres sat near the base of Beckman's Peninsula, where Mr. Gregg said some of the first vacation cottages were built after the lake's creation in 1925.
"People from the Baltimore-Washington metro area and the Pittsburgh area got away from the city. Their mother and kids went there for the summer and the father came on weekends, and that scenario kind of prevailed for a number of years," he said.
Mr. Gregg acknowledged the perception that Deep Creek has become "a rich man's lake" and sympathized with those who have been forced out, but he said the change was a result of simple economics.
"It's the law of supply and demand. People have property for sale and others have the means to buy that property," he said. "It's almost a double-edged sword, but I guess you can't stop progress."

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