College Mountain Going Bald

January 09, 1991

The tree-draped mountain half-owned by Mount St. Mary's College outside Emmitsburg is beginning to go bald. The owner of the other half of College Mountain is clearing trees to create what many suspect will eventually become ski trails. That is a curious and potentially troublesome prospect, not just for the college but for area residents as well.

It is curious since Frederick County commissioners have denied one request for a ski trail by College Mountain Recreational Corp. It is troublesome because the college and local officials believe skiing would create the need for more roads and other services along U.S. Route 15. Could this be another struggle over land use and adequate facilities? If so, it could prove to be of major proportions.

The hills surrounding northern Frederick County contain some of Maryland's most productive farms and wildlife. But that's not all that concerns the county commissioners, the college and residents near College Mountain. The highways leading to the site were built for smaller traffic loads. Open a resort and the existing highways -- and the hills all around -- will come alive with the sound of skiers.

But Wallace B. Shank, president of College Mountain Recreation Corp., says nothing could be further from his current plans. The economy is down, there is no construction money. Meanwhile, cutting older trees is profitable at this time. Future plans depend upon better economic conditions.

On the trail or in the board room, timing is everything.

Ralph Gordon, attorney for Mount St. Mary's, says that the more important issue now is the cutting of trees, which he sees as illegal. If he is right, the state Department of Natural Resources is not enforcing its own law regarding permits for cutting trees. The College Mountain firm has just as much right to cut trees on land it owns as anyone else, so long as proper permission is granted. State forest, park and wildlife protection must first be observed, however, whatever the company's long-term purpose.

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