After more than two years of debate, the state Department of Natural Resources has finally developed a draft master plan for the Morgan Run Natural Environment Area.
The plan calls for development to be restricted to adding parking near trails for fishing, hiking, bird-watching and horseback riding, said park Ranger Frank Ryan, who lives at Morgan Run. That's because the park is designated among the most environmentally sensitive of state parks.
"The purpose for Morgan Run is the protection of the Liberty Reservoir watershed," he said. "We have about 1,300 acres of land which are major [contributors] to the water for over a million people in Carroll and Baltimore counties and Baltimore City. Activities have to be confined to those that won't have a negative impact on the water."
Provisions to protect the ring-necked pheasant also are in the plan. Populations of the bird, which have been concentrated in Carroll, have drastically declined in recent years, Ryan said.
"We have encouraged landowners to manage their property to benefit the ringed-necks, and we felt a responsibility to demonstrate some of those uses here at Morgan Run," he said.
The park, which nearly closed because of budget cuts last year, has been run almost entirely on volunteer help since last July.
Members of Trail Riders of Today have been maintaining the few equestrian areas, bird-watching groups have been putting up bluebird nesting boxes and cleaning those trails, the Carroll County Sportsmen have been cutting the 100 acres of Canadian thistle, while the Trout Unlimited and Maryland Fly Anglers have been stocking the streams with private releases, Ryan said.
Also, an outpouring of community support allowed Ryan to continue to work at home, rather than be transferred to the Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area in Baltimore County.
"The user-groups and neighbors realize that I provide a security function here," said Ryan. "They mounted a letter-writing campaign and through the help of the volunteers, I was returned to Morgan Run."
DNR officials will be gathering public comment on the plan at an informational hearing at 7 p.m. on July 15 at Liberty High School in Eldersburg. Comments will be used to determine whether the plan must be revised further, DNR officials said yesterday.
But county officials have yet to be contacted about the meeting or the contents of the proposed plan.
"I am very interested in this and curious about what it has to say," said County Commissioner Donald I. Dell yesterday afternoon. "I guess there's a good chance we will be contacted about it. We just haven't been as of yet."