The lighthouse license plate is now available to the public. Photo: Frank Jones

New Md. License Plate Benefits Hart-Miller Island

Almost any upper Bay boater knows that Hart-Miller Island is a special place, accessible only by boat and home to a Maryland State Park. It’s a wildly popular anchorage for boaters to hang out beachside on summer weekends. And as of this week, any Maryland driver can show their support for the island with a new specialty license plate.

Residents of Millers Island, the spit of land just south of Hart-Miller, are fiercely proud of their community and the distinctive-looking Millers Island Lighthouse (formally called Craighill Channel Lower Range Light Rear).

The circa-1873 lighthouse is the tallest on the Bay, with a pyramid-shaped iron skeletal tower and square central cylinder painted red, white and gray. It marks the entrance to the Patapsco River about three miles northeast of Fort Howard.

Frank Jones, a self-described license plate collector who lives in Fort Howard, came up with the idea to create a license plate of the Millers Island Lighthouse. It’s a fairly well-kept secret that any nonprofit in Maryland can apply to create its own Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) tags, so long as they go through an approval process.

Right now, the MVA website lists 865 of these organizational license plates, each with a different design. Until recently, there were only two lighthouse plates available in Maryland: the Choptank River Lighthouse and Turkey Point Light.

Through a four-year labor of love, Frank Jones has added Millers Island to the list of options. The North Point State Park Volunteers and the Friends of Hart-Miller Island State Park benefit from the sale of the new license plate, which features an image of the lighthouse with the sun setting behind it. Designed by Harry Wujek of local business Island Graphics, the license plate design went through multiple iterations before being approved by the MVA.

Frank Jones (left) spearheaded the license plate project and Harry Wujek of Island Graphics designed the art.

Jones says he first connected with the Friends of Hart-Miller and the North Point Volunteers about his idea in 2019. But when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the MVA, the organizational license plates department was one of the last to reopen. Jones and Wujek worked and reworked the design. One requirement for MVA approval was for Jones to provide a list of 25 drivers who would consider buying the plate.

Finally, the license plate is out and ready for the public. Jones did not have any trouble finding more than 25 interested drivers. In fact, close to 200 plates were sold just in the first two days. Jones set up shop at the local dock bar, Rowboat Willie’s, and then at the grocery store the next day.

He says the community is thrilled with the design. One person confessed to Jones that they were skeptical at first, given how protective neighbors are of the lighthouse as a local symbol. But upon seeing the plate design, the residents changed their tune. The desirable, lowest-numbered license plates were saved for locals. Tag numbers 1 and 2 went to Wujek.

When asked if four years of effort and the work involved in selling the plates is worth it to Jones, he doesn’t hesitate. “This is my baby!” he tells Bay Bulletin. He collects and trades license plates from all over the world, with plates in his possession from South Africa, Australia and the UK. But this one rises to the top of his collection.

To apply for a Millers Island Lighthouse in support of the two local state parks, you make a one-time $25 donation (cash or check) to the North Point State Park Volunteers and you send a second $25 fee to the MVA with your application to pay for the plates.

Any interested driver can mail a $25 check or money order made payable to The Volunteers of North Point State Park and mail it to:
Millers Island License Plates
PO Box 41
Fort Howard, Md 21052

All proceeds go directly to the Volunteers of North Point State Park and the Friends of Hart Miller Island.

-Meg Walburn Viviano