Declaring victory, the parks department has retreated from a controversial policy to sell advertising along the B & A trail.
The Department of Recreation and Parks announced Tuesday that the 3-month-old policy had accomplished its goal of ridding the trail of illegal advertising, even though no businesses were willing to pay $250 per year to buy into the plan.
"We wanted to make it so if they erected a sign, it would be legal. But since there was no reaction from the merchants, we decided to lay it to rest," said Trail Superintendent Dave Dionne.
Dionne said the "clutter" of signs posted on sandwich boards and trees disappeared as his rangers alerted merchants that their trail-side signs wereillegal.
Not everyone was ready to claim victory, but most seemedhappy to see the policy go.
"I think it was a poorly conceived idea, and I'm delighted to see it stopped," said Stuart Morris, who presided over the Severn River Association until June and led the movement against the signs.
In May, park rangers began distributing handbills offering merchants the opportunity to post 36-by-10-inch signs along the trail for a $250 annual fee. The idea caused an uproar among people in the Severna Park area who objected to commercializing park land.
Dionne defended his policy, saying the signs would providean important service to trail users by pointing out such businesses as bike shops and ice cream stands. The policy would have also raisedextra money for projects along the trail at a time that department heads were being asked not to request increases in their operating budgets.
The executive committee of the Severn River Association voted overwhelmingly to oppose the sign policy in early June. On June 11,the Greater Severna Park Council voted to leave the decision to County Executive Robert R. Neall.
GSPC president Patricia Troy said the sign plan had generated more interest than any other issue during her six-month tenure.
Neall endorsed the plan at the June 18 meeting of the Severn River Association, promising to "personally rip them out if it starts to look like Coney Island."
Neall, who in the same speech implored skeptical SRA members to give him "a fair shot" to demonstrate his commitment to environmentalism, said the park's signswould be "tasteful."
But 95 assembled members of the association rebuked him after the speech, voting by acclamation to continue theiropposition to the administration's policy.
It was the lack of interest among merchants, not the opposition from citizens, that persuaded the parks department to abandon the policy, Dionne said this week.