Trouble at Black Marsh

March 04, 1991

A Department of Natural Resources plan to divide Black Marsh Park, a large and rich ecological system along Baltimore County's Chesapeake coast, causes us concern. It recommends recreational use on a portion of the 1,310 acres. An amphitheater to accommodate 1,000 would rise on land designated as North Point State Park, which also would include a tie-up pier for 40 or 50 boats.

Will this damage the marshes and other natural life in the park, including wild ground animals, eagles and waterfowl? With a bandstand comes a need to accommodate heavy traffic with new roads, parking facilities, concessions and other amenities. Can such a major Eastern resource such as Black Marsh remain protected under such conditions?

A bill establishing the broad land (once owned by Bethlehem Steel) as "North Point State Park and Black Marsh Wild Land" is making its way through the State House. The only positive step taken thus far was withdrawal of language that would have allowed the legislation, if passed, to take priority over any other provision of natural resources law. That would have included the Critical Areas Act, the state's primary protection against development near the Chesapeake Bay.

We believe there is room in Black Marsh for development, but not along the lines recommended by DNR and an advisory panel. A bandstand for summer rock concerts and pier tie-ups for 40 boats is inconsistent with the natural surroundings.

Instead, the area could use walkways and bike paths, as the DNR draft plan proposes, and a road to give visitors a closer view of the habitat. An emphasis on educational and environmental uses is more in keeping with the natural environment, and its proximity to the historic march of British troops attempting to capture Baltimore in the War of 1812. Other historic sites -- some adjacent or on Black Marsh property -- are equally well worth the trip and should be made easier to approach.

That is not to say there cannot be rest stops, a concession stand and picnic tables. But Black Marsh is not an entertainment zone. Any attempt to create one would diminish its true value.

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