Flight from Annapolis and squabble over parks


November 17, 1996|By Brian Sullam

DESPITE ITS QUAINT appearance, Annapolis is no different from any other city.

The same economic, social and political dynamics that afflict larger cities such as Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia are at work in Maryland's state capital.

People, businesses and important institutions are leaving the city for its suburbs. Such flight has depleted other urban centers, and Annapolis is destined to suffer the same fate unless some corrective action is taken.

The announcement by the Anne Arundel Medical Center that it will be moving its hospital operations from downtown and consolidating them at its 104-acre Jennifer Road complex in the next five years was long-expected. Rather than lament the departure of the institution and jobs, the city can take action.

It can expand its boundaries to absorb the hospital's new location. Instead of seeing 1,800 jobs move out of the city, the jobs will remain. Even more important, the businesses that spin off around the new complex will become part of the city's tax base.

Under this annexation scenario, city officials won't have to lose sleep over the possible loss of jobs and real property tax base. Businesses that do move outside the city limits can assume that in short order their property will soon become part of the city.

Not only should the AAMC complex be part of the city, but so should Annapolis Mall and the proposed mixed-use office complex on Jennifer Road.

If the city had the unrestricted power to annex development just over the city line, Annapolis officials wouldn't have to try fruitlessly to convince businessmen to remain in the city.

If businesses knew they couldn't escape, many of them might decide to stay put.

Whose parkland is it?

By the time this is in print, three days of the bow hunt of whitetail deer at Sandy Point State Park will be over.

The hunters will have bagged a few deer, the animal rights people will have conducted their protests and the issue will quiet down for the time being.

However, one important element was lost in the debate over deer hunt in the park: The dispute was not about hunting.

It was about territoriality.

Maryland's Department of Natural Resources has a number of different and conflicting missions in acquiring, protecting and operating the state's public spaces.

Conflicting forces have converged over the Sandy Point hunt and given us an understandable microcosm of the larger conflict within the department.

It used to be that hunters and fishermen were DNR's constituents. People stalking game and fishing in streams used bTC to be the primary users of the state's forests, wildlife areas and other open spaces. As a result, hunters are more possessive of their turf.

In the past two decades, the explosion of outdoor activities, from mountain biking to whitewater kayaking, has increased the pressure to open up state lands to non-hunting uses. Hunters see themselves being short-changed.

They pay for their hunting and fishing licenses and feel that non-hunters are getting a free ride.

On the other hand, people seeking recreation -- from bird watching to swimming -- have considered state parks such as Sandy Point or Assateague to be set aside for their use.

The crux of the dispute over the Sandy Point hunt is that recreational users are appalled that hunters are being brought into a state park that had been the preserve of non-hunters.

DNR sits in the middle of this conflict, trying to placate two constituencies that want to use state-owned open spaces.

Allowing bow hunting in Sandy Point Park will boost DNR's standing among the hunters, but it has cost the department considerably among its non-hunting constituency.

Residents of the Podickery Point, Chesapeake Oaks and Beacon Hill neighborhoods use the woods for dog walking, bird-watching and strolling. They feel very possessive about the woods around their houses and see the hunters as interlopers.

It appears that they may have to confine their nature walks to the weekends, at least until Jan. 31 when the bow season ends.

The conflict between the hunters and non-hunters will continue to play itself out in other parts of the state, particularly in state-owned lands with significant deer populations.

'Lights on the Bay'

Sometimes, disparate issues have a strange way of converging.

In the midst of writing this column, a press release about "Lights on the Bay" landed on my desk.

This spectacular holiday show of lights, oversized animals and Christmas displays at Sandy Point State Park will open on Tuesday, Nov. 26, and will run through Jan. 5, 1997.

For $12 a car, hunters and non-hunters alike will be able to drive a two-mile stretch of road lined with the lights and displays.

The proceeds benefit Anne Arundel Medical Center's women's and children's services -- a worthy cause.

Brian Sullam is The Sun's editorial writer in Anne Arundel County.

Pub Date: 11/17/96

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