Place of trust for natural areas

January 27, 1995

When developers of land along Otter Point Creek in Edgewood were looking recently to donate a 104-acre parcel of woods and marsh for environmental preservation, they promptly chose the Harford Land Trust.

In four short years, the private nonprofit group has established a stellar reputation as a conservator of sensitive and significant open space in the county. More than 300 acres of Harford land have been protected by the trust through purchases, easements and outright gifts.

The role of the Harford Land Trust is particularly important in acting as interim conservator between an owner's sale and eventual government acquisition. Government agencies are stingy with their appraisals and slow to part with public funds to protect ecologically valuable tracts, a lassitude that can frustrate even patient landowners trying to get a fair market price for their properties.

That was the trust's role in protecting Kilgore Falls near Pylesville two years ago, providing shortfall funds for the state to buy the 23 acres instead of losing the scenic land to private sale.

It acquired 102 acres of Forest Greens Lake Preserve in Perryman a year earlier, a purchase made with foundation loans and private grants. The property was finally transferred to Harford County for environmental protection at less than half the price paid by the land trust.

A few months ago, it bought 34 acres along Deer Creek for eventual addition to Palmer State Park south of Dublin, because the owner was ready to sell but the state was unwilling to pay his $150,000 price. Further haggling and delay could have jeopardized the land's public use.

The Harford group, one of 40 similar land trusts in Maryland, was formed by environmental activists who were first concerned about the threat of development along Deer Creek, which meanders through the northern part of the county.

Starting with member donations, the Harford Land Trust quickly proved itself adept at fund raising and convincing foundations to make interest-free loans to assist in its acquisitions. The trust enlisted the enthusiastic support of school kids to collect funds for the Kilgore Falls project.

Harford County can be proud of the trust's accomplishments in protecting its important natural areas, accomplishments that have been made possible by the combined efforts of citizens and business donors and landowners willing to commit their properties for the public good.

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