A mining company, scared off by public protests and poor-grade stone, wants to unload 600 acres near the county's Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary -- preferably, corporate officials say, for preservation.
But nearly nine months after Genstar Stone Products Co. dropped its plansto extract sand and gravel from the forest and former agricultural lands on the banks of the Patuxent River, neither the state nor any private preservation group has stepped forward to accept the offer.
Kim Snyder, Genstar vice president of aggregates, said his firm has pitched the property to several state agencies, including Program Open Space and the State Highway Administration, and the county.
So far, the company has received no response.
"Because of the public interest, we told the county and the state that we would prefer to sell it to them rather than an outside party like a developer," Snyder said. "We have no timetable, but we would like a commitment by the first half of next year."
State Sen. Bernie Fowler, D-Prince Frederick, said he would like to see the property set aside as open space.It would create an environmental buffer along both the Patuxent and the fragile wetlands at Jug Bay, he said.
But, Fowler said, the state has already gutted Program Open Space to balance the state budget, and Maryland's fiscal health appears to be growing worse.
If thestate doesn't acquire the land, Fowler said, he's concerned Genstar might sell it to a housing developer.
Fowler has begun meeting with South County residents and environmentalists, encouraging them to develop their own strategies to preserve the property.
"We've bounced the ball into their laps and said, 'OK, (Genstar) is not going to mine the area. Now, what ideas do you have for the property?' " Fowler said.
Tom Cassidy, a member of the Friends of Jug Bay's managingboard, said he and a group of environmentalists are meeting this week to map out a strategy that might include federal aid, private groups like the Nature Conservancy, and the state.
"Unfortunately, the typical vehicle to obtain the funds necessary to transfer this property to public ownership is out of gas," Cassidy said, referring to thestate's budget crunch. "We need to find an alternative fuel."
County officials, neighboring Bristol residents and environmentalists objected when Genstar unveiled its plans in 1988 to mine the property.
Although the Hunt Valley-based company offered to donate 250 acresas a wildlife sanctuary, opponents feared the impact mining would have on the river and Jug Bay.