Farms yield to fairways Golf: A rural area enters a classic debate over working the land for a living or for play.

May 19, 1998|By Todd Richissin | Todd Richissin,SUN STAFF

MOUNT JOY TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- The golf course under construction just a 5-iron from the Mason-Dixon Line will be one of the most luxurious in the mid-Atlantic. Already emerging is a sweetly rolling, pond-skirted, mountain-ringed, emerald-green patch of pure pleasure, where -- forget the birdies -- even bogies promise to be beautiful.

And all 18 holes of it burn Wilbur Waybright's stomach.

The course, just off the northwest tip of Maryland's Carroll County, will be the ninth within a half-hour drive of the land that Waybright has farmed for most of his 73 years.

Until recently, he could plop his body atop his tractor, cock his head in any direction and breathe in pure country, acre after acre of rippling farmland.

Now, though, in a classic city-country clash, Waybright's view is being drastically altered.

"I know what I'll be seeing now is a bunch of people from Baltimore and Washington with too much time on their darn hands, which is the trouble with this country," he says, standing in muddy boots in his barn, rubbing turpentine on his calloused fingers and squeezing off the red tractor paint.

"These people, they have to rest up on Monday from their weekends," he continues. "If they had to work like farmers, we'd never see them out here -- and that'd be just as well."

Soon, though -- next spring, if all goes according to plan -- the golfers will be streaming down Mason-Dixon Road, past Waybright's farm, to play.

They will come from the south and west, from Washington and Gettysburg, and from the east, from Baltimore.

Whether that is a good thing might be debatable, but everybody in these parts agrees on this: The little township is forever going to change.

Other rural areas, including parts of Carroll County, are feeling the encroachment of cities. But places like Joy Township are not just in the country. They are the country.

More cows than people live along Mason-Dixon Road, a winding strip of asphalt that bisects several family farms as well as the golf course. The road roughly parallels the Mason-Dixon Line, the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland and the figurative divide between the North and South.

Generations of farmers have lived here, raising their cattle and harvesting thousands of acres of wheat and barley, alfalfa and corn. Much of the area was once owned by the family of William Penn. It is classic farmland, the skyline formed by grain silos and barn roofs, the curves of rolling hilltops and the expansive leafy canopies of grand giant oaks.

Getting away

"I got this place to get away from it all," says Dave Kelly, 59, who lived in Baltimore most of his life and bought a stately white farmhouse here four years ago. "Now it's going to come here? Where do you go to get away from it?"

Good question, not as easily answered as it once was. But city folks will be getting away from "it" on the golf course, to be called The Links at Gettysburg.

Many of the holes on the public-private course are nearly complete. Spread over 305 acres, it is a par 72, a little less than 7,000 yards from the back tees, with more than 10 acres of ponds, at least two waterfalls, a bridge resembling that on the 12th hole of Augusta National, bent grass throughout, panoramic views and a cliff-side clubhouse that will overlook a magnificent par-5 finishing hole.

Carts will be equipped with satellite equipment. This is not a course where golfers will have to guess the best place to aim or how far it is to the hole.

"I may be a little prejudiced, but I think it's going to be a beautiful, beautiful course, one of the nicest around," says Rick Klein, one of its owners. "We think the market is there for an upscale golf course that you just can't play on around here."

He understands the concerns of the farmers, who have been the most vocal about fears of increased traffic and how the water requirements of the golf course will affect their supply, all of which is drawn from wells.

Their Mason-Dixon is a road less traveled. Before bulldozers rumbled in for construction on the golf course, scarcely a car cruised its lanes.

But with more than 30,000 golfers a year expected to use the links, that will change.

"In terms of what traffic there is now, yes, there's going to be a major increase," says Klein. "But that's because, basically, nobody uses the road now. It's not like we're going to choke off the road."

As for the water, it's true, Klein says, that he is digging 18 wells on the property. But, he adds, extensive testing shows that only a couple of neighboring wells would be affected, and those minimally.

'Improving the land'

"I think what we're doing is putting in something really nice, really improving the land, without a big negative impact," he says.

The unhappiness among farmers has not led them to try to stop Klein from building. His family has owned the property for years and, the farmers agree, it is the family's right to do with it what they want.

"We wish him nothing but success. What they're making is going to be absolutely beautiful," says Bea Waybright, 43, a dairy farmer from another family of Waybrights who live up the road. "It's just, what are we going to get from the good looks of a golf course? I don't think it's going to be worth it."

Klein is not only aware of the course's surroundings but is trying to use them to his benefit. Tracts of farmland next to several holes will be maintained and harvested; on the fifth fairway sits a huge grain bin, which he hopes to keep in place.

The irony of that is not lost on Wilbur Waybright, but he is no fan of irony.

"I'm not finding much at all to like about any of it," he says.

But, with thought, he could find a bright side.

"I guess," he grudgingly admits, "it beats 300 acres of housing development."

Pub Date: 5/19/98

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