County, state purchase completes park

September 23, 1994|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Sun Staff Writer

A 12-year campaign to preserve Cromwell Valley for public use reached its goal yesterday with an announcement that the last major piece of property in the valley will be acquired by Baltimore County in partnership with the state.

County Executive Roger B. Hayden said the county and state have agreed on a $2.6 million purchase price with C. Franklin Eck Jr., owner of the 45-acre Good Fellowship Farm, on the southwestern end of the valley. Cromwell Valley is about three miles northeast of Towson.

"A hundred years from now, someone can say we made the right decision," Mr. Hayden said to a small gathering of county officials and community leaders at the farm.

The deal has to be approved by the County Council and the state Board of Public Works. Approval is expected to come next month.

Total cost for the 367 acres, which includes Good Fellowship, the 220-acre Satyr Hill Farm, and the 102-acre Sherwood Farm, comes to about $8 million, split evenly between the county and the state.

"Bargain prices," said Stanley Pollack, president of the Summerfield Farms Association, a community group of about 250 families in the Glen Arm area. Mr. Pollack, retired chairman of the Towson State University art department, was a leader in the campaign to save the valley.

"It has taken constant effort by individuals and community leaders to reach this day," Mr. Pollack said. "The county and the state have acquired a scenic and historic park whose recorded history dates back to the 1690s. It would have been a great loss had it not been preserved."

The Good Fellowship property includes a house valued at about $500,000, a large barn, several outbuildings, two tenant houses and two in-ground swimming pools.

The county will maintain and develop the valley, and has retained a consultant, Greenman-Pedersen of Laurel, to create a master plan for what is now Cromwell Valley Park.

Wayne R. Harman, whose Department of Recreation and Parks will manage the park, said the consultant's proposal is to be submitted mid-1995. The county also will solicit suggestions from the community.

"My dream is that it become a modern urban park, an oasis for everyone to enjoy," Mr. Harman said.

The county will negotiate for eight more acres and a 1744 stone house owned by Lillian Jenifer near Satyr Hill Road, he said.

Community groups and the Chesapeake Lands Project of the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit conservation group based in Washington, fought a delaying action in the courts for years on the Good Fellowship and Satyr Hill properties until a breakthrough in January 1993, when Gov. William Donald Schaefer visited Satyr Hill Farm at the urging of Mr. Hayden and endorsed its purchase.

Eleven years ago, Robert Merrick, owner of Satyr Hill Farm, and Donald Sherwood, owner of Sherwood Farm, agreed to form a consortium to develop their properties.

Mr. Sherwood died in 1989, and Mrs. Sherwood, with the agreement of her two sons and a daughter, pledged the farm to the Maryland Environmental Trust, which in effect meant it could not be developed.

Julia Randall, a retired Hollins College English professor, started the campaign to save the valley in 1982 after her successful effort to get Long Green Valley on the national historical register.

"Our concerns just kind of spread to Cromwell Valley," Ms. Randall said from North Bennington, Vt., where she lives. "My friends have kept me up on developments, and I'm absolutely delighted that the valley has been almost entirely saved."

The Campaign to Save Cromwell Valley committee was formed six years ago to take over Ms. Randall's role. Mostly made up of valley neighbors, it carried on a relentless campaign to preserve the valley.

"Our goal has been realized," said Dorothy Streb, vice president and director of the committee. She credited county and state agencies, including the Department of Natural Resources, for their cooperation.

The Good Fellowship property literally was snatched from the jaws of bulldozers, Mr. Eck said.

"It has been platted for development for several years, and we were about to begin on engineering drawings," he said. "I have a file filled with developers who were interested in buying the property. It was very, very close, but I'm happy it turned out this way."

The park won't be open to casual visitors until the master plan is implemented because of the lack of parking and restroom facilities.

The county has purchased a wagon and two Percherons, 1,800-pound draft horses, for hay rides beginning the middle of next month.

For information on Cromwell Valley Park activities, call 887-3814.

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