Environmentalists fight park, athletic facility

September 10, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

A 400-acre park and athletic facility for West County is being opposed by county environmental groups, who contend that ball fields, picnic pavilions and parking lots are incompatible with the forested site.

The county Department of Parks and Recreation has asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for permission to build a park on a portion of the 8,100 acres transferred from Fort Meade to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

But a coalition of county environmental groups has urged Hal J. O'Connor, director of the Laurel-based research center, to reject the county's proposal. The coalition includes the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Magothy River Association, the Sierra Club, Maryland Save Our Streams and the League of Women Voters.

Environmentalists contend in an Aug. 28 letter that all 8,100 acres are "a natural treasure that should not be squandered. It is indeed the closest thing our county has to a national park and should be rigorously protected from development, be it public or private."

Jay Cuccia, assistant to Parks and Recreation Director Bill Rinehart, said the county has discussed building a "regional park" at the research center with U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials.

Mr. Cuccia said the county's July 10 presentation to Fish and Wildlife officials was similar to a "wish list" unveiled by recreation officials last December.

That wish list included hiking trails, athletic facilities and picnic areas.

"It has not really progressed a whole lot since then [December] other than we had a formal meeting," he said.

Fish and Wildlife officials are expected to answer the county in October. At that point, the county will tailor its proposal to whatever is allowed, Mr. Cuccia said.

The county also is considering alternatives to a single, regional park on the research center's property, Mr. Cuccia said. A county-appointed West County Park Committee, for example, has recommended building several smaller parks on county-owned parcels in lieu of a regional park.

"We still feel if we can get something on that [research center] property, it would best serve the citizens of West County," Mr. Cuccia said.

Congress transferred 8,100 "surplus" acres from the Army's Fort Meade base to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center last year.

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