Bay panel approves development of park

December 05, 1991|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

The Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission yesterday approved a plan by state officials to develop as a park site one of the last waterfront tracts open to the public, the new North Point State Park.

The commission approved the Department of Natural Resources' plan to build a small amphitheater, a two-story visitors center with sleeping quarters for 40 students, two picnic pavilions and a parking lot at the site, formerly known as Black Marsh State Park.

Janet B. Wood, who chaired the 15-member citizens advisory group that developed the plan, said the commission approval represents the last major hurdle for the improvements on a 20-acre portion of the 1,310-acre site in Edgemere.

"I'm thrilled to death," said Mrs. Wood, who is also president of the nearby Wells McComas Community Association.

Approval was granted after two hours of debate at the commission's meeting in St. Michaels yesterday. It came despite an intensive lobbying effort by the Coalition to Preserve Black Marsh Inc., a conservation group, to defeat the plan.

Group members said the plan would destroy the natural surroundings of a site that is a nesting place for bald eagles and American bitterns.

The group, which gathered 10,000 signatures on petitions supporting its position, managed yesterday to persuade the commission to make its approval contingent on nine conditions that will minimize the environmental impact of the plan.

"We feel, at least it's not a total green light," said Lynn Jordan, a spokeswoman for the group. "As far as we're concerned, the commission gave DNR a yellow light, and it was only a yellow light."

Conditions include:

* That individual projects that are part of the plan be submitted to the commission for additional review and approval before they are constructed.

* That the 150-space parking lot be moved to a location that would minimize its impact on tidal wetlands.

* That the size of the amphitheater be limited to 350 seats and the boating pier be limited to 25 recreational boat slips and two slips for police patrol or educational boats. Plans originally called for 50 slips at the pier and for the amphitheater to have a total seating capacity of 700 seats.

The state bought the site, once the home of the private Bay Shore amusement park, for $5.4 million in 1987.

A trolley barn, an earthen pier and a stone fountain that were part of the original park when it was operated in the 1900s also are to be brought back to their original condition, state officials said.

The price for all of the improvements is an estimated $6 million.

Mrs. Wood said that because of state funding constraints, it will likely be another four to five years before any work begins.

Mrs. Wood said the plan is aimed at taking advantage of the park's location along the Chesapeake Bay and maximizing its potential as an educational tool and a piece of local history.

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