TANEYTOWN - For the last 45 years, members of the Taneytown Rod and Gun Club have been able to improve their catch or perfect their shooting in the middle of a lush, 20-acre refuge just outside the city.
The three-acre stocked pond, the endless view of trees, wildlife and surrounding farmland and the distance from homes, schools or people made their club grounds a perfect place for target shooting or trout fishing.
But that is about to change, as the club members, fearing an inevitable push of development could ruin their Stumptown Road property, decided last week to sell the parcel to the city for $365,000.
For the 260-member club, the sale marks the end of almost a half-century in what once was considered a remote part of Carroll County.
For the city, the sale will mean the dedication of a park, a park that will guarantee some greenery in this rapidly growing town of 3,500 people.
"We just didn't want to let it be gobbled up by some developer," said City Manager Neal W. Powell. "We want to preserve it as it is, as a bit of open space."
The town and the club have negotiated the deal for several months, Powell said. The city has secured the money to buy it from a state-backed lending program designed to preserve open space.
Powell said he doesn't know exactly when the deal will be final, but added that the city's application to the state lending program was completed last week.
In addition to the 20-acre club site, the city is negotiating for an additional seven-acre tract adjacent to it, Powell said. He did not disclose a potential purchase price.
No date has been set for when the club will move from the site; the city is going to allow it to remain there until new grounds can be found.
In fact, the Rod and Gun Club does not face any strict deadline in finding a new home. Powell said the city would probably lease the property back to the club for $1 a year until then.
"Whether they use it or we have it as a park, it is still green space," Powell said. "The important thing is to keep it undeveloped."
About a month ago, the club president announced that he was looking at a 142-acre tract some five miles north of town, off Route 194 -- a tract that he said at the time would remain far from development pressures that would have eventually made it impossible for his club to survive at its present location.
Club president Godfrey "Dick" Miller could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Should the club move to the 142-acre tract, the cost to members would be more than $425,000. Members had not, as of yesterday, decided on a new site.
Taneytown's newest parkland is a naturally beautiful setting about 15 blocks from City Hall, replete with woods, a clubhouse, the pond and pavilions with picnic tables.
"This is a beautiful piece of property," Powell said. "We're lucky to keep this tract."
At the pace development is going here, the town was indeed lucky. The city is coming off a year when the number of new residences approved could almost double the city's population. And, even with an impending slump in the county's real estate market, the city is still expecting growth pressures to continue.
"With this park, we can always be sure we have some open space to offer our residents," Powell said. "It was a great opportunity for the city."