Farmer seeks to close part of road Woman wants to save planned buffer of trees from vandals, plows

September 20, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Trees would cool the slow-moving river that runs along Nellie Baumgardner's farm and improve trout habitat.

Trees would trap sediment, one of the environmental problems troubling the Monocacy River, and slow the rush of water during floods, such as those that ravaged the area this summer.

Baumgardner wants to plant a 100-foot buffer of trees along a 2.2-mile stretch of the Monocacy River that runs along her 162-acre farm on Baumgardner Road west of Taneytown.

But Baumgardner won't plant the trees unless Carroll officials agree to close a one-mile stretch of the road, a move she said is necessary to protect the trees from vandals and environmental damage caused by winter plowing.

The section of road she wants closed parallels the Monocacy and runs through a flood plain.

Closing the little-traveled road, however, would force drivers who use Baumgardner Road between Keysville Frederick County Road and Bull Frog Road to travel a five-mile detour.

County officials refused in March to schedule a public hearing on Baumgardner's request to close the road because the road occasionally is used by motorists.

At least one county official, Commissioner Donald I. Dell, is reconsidering that decision.

"To be fair to all, I think I'd have to relinquish my thoughts and say let's have a public hearing if they insist on it," he said.

Closing the road would eliminate a reprise of environmental damage caused by county road workers last winter when they plowed snow and ice near the river. Michael J. Evans, the county's public works director, said "several small saplings" were damaged by county road crews removing snow and ice after winter storms.

The county received a violation notice from the Army Corps of Engineers for digging a ditch to drain water from the road into the river. The corps has delayed an order to restore the area until the road closing issue is resolved.

Baumgardner said she wants to plant the tree buffer because the river, which forms the northern border between Carroll and Frederick counties, is eroding her land.

"I want to keep the land fixed up instead of leaving it go to pieces," she said.

However, her son, John Baumgardner Jr., sees the road closing plan as an effort by his mother and sisters Pat Baumgardner and Nancy Baginski to "stir up" a family dispute.

"I run that road several times a day because I live over on Bull Frog Road," he said.

Baumgardner said he uses the road to reach farm property he rents and to care for two elderly uncles who live across the river in Frederick County.

Baumgardner, who worked the farm after his father's death in 1989 until the feud developed several years ago, said his mother could plant trees without closing the road.

He said he and his father protected the field near the Monocacy River from erosion by keeping it in grass and never planting rotational crops there.

"It's when the root system's destroyed that you have erosion," he said.

Pat Baumgardner said she planted trees in the buffer area for two years, but vandals destroyed them. "As long as you're leaving that road there where people can throw vegetation killer out, we're not going to get anything to grow," she said.

The Monocacy "does have some water quality problems," said J. Shermer Garrison, environmental specialist with the Department of Natural Resources.

"There are a lot of sediment problems in the river. When it rains, all you have to do is look at it. It's very muddy."

The Monocacy was rated fair to good in a 1993 water-quality study by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Garrison said monitoring stations below the Pennsylvania border showed high levels of nutrients that stimulate algae when the river enters Maryland. The Monocacy also lacks streamside vegetation to keep it cool for trout, he said.

Trees "are a great idea. We put trees instead of houses in a flood plain and they slowly build up root systems. It actually slows the water down [during floods]," said Ned Gerber, director of Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage. Baumgardner's project would be one of the largest in the area, Gerber said.

Pub Date: 9/20/96

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