When Wayne Harman, Baltimore County's new director of recreation and parks, describes the 241-acre Bacon Hall farm west of Interstate 83 in the north county as the site for a future park, he uses such words as "majestic," "brilliant" and "farsighted."
"We see this as the magic moment," he said of the proposed $1.9 million purchase at a community meeting last night at Hereford Middle School.
When school planner James Kraft talks about the 12.5-acre portion of the site that the school board can buy for an elementary school for $96,000, he stresses how crowded every north county school is and how much more crowded they will be by 1995.
OC But to many north county residents, the plan is one more threat
to a fast-disappearing rural life.
Speakers from a crowd of 100 last night said they are suspicious of county promises of a "passive park," an equestrian center and a tree nursery on the site north of Cold Bottom Road.
Chris Dreyer, who lives next to the fallow farmland and forests that surround the old mansion house and huge horse barn, is worried about his low-yield water well.
Virginia Roeder and others thought $1.9 million is too much to spend for a farm "when people are being fired from their jobs." However, the money comes from voter-authorized bonds, which can be used only for buying parkland.
Farmer Charles Ensor, whose family tills 3,000 acres in the area, said the roads are so rough now, "How're we going to move if you put a school there?"
And Margaret Jones said, "We don't need parks. Parents who need recreation should stay home and educate [their] children."
There were a few supporters.
Former county school board president Donald Pierce, of Hereford, said a park and school are good ways to preserve the land. He recalled that residents along Seminary Avenue defeated board plans for a vocational high school there in 1978. Ten years later, he said, it became quarter-acre home sites and the fields were gone.
Julie Rudolph said Sparks Elementary, the area's 1909-vintage school, has 440 students with 200 attending classes in trailers or in a nearby church. "We need a new school," she said.
Kraft said that without intervention, Sparks Elementary is projected to have 653 students, 367 more than capacity, by 1995.
Barry Brown, who once operated the horse facilities on Bacon Hall, said the site would be fine for equestrian activities.
The final decision will come from elected officials such as County Councilman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-3rd. His aide said he is undecided.