Balto. County offers land-saving cash $5 million to augment $6.1 million from state

June 10, 1998|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers James M. Coram and Candus Thomson contributed to this article.

Clouds rolled in over rural northern Baltimore County late yesterday afternoon and it rained dollars.

Even as Maryland's governor awarded Baltimore and Carroll counties $7.6 million to preserve thousands of acres of farmland and wilderness, Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger pledged $5 million more.

The money will be added to two state programs and to help two proposals that weren't funded in Baltimore County.

"This is this generation's legacy for future generations," Gov. Parris N. Glendening told the crowd assembled outside Mount Zion Church in Upperco.

The money to buy land and development rights will come from Project Open Space and the state's new Rural Legacy Program.

The governor said the state would spend $3 million to preserve 800 acres in the Piney Run watershed in the northwest Baltimore County, $3.1 million to save 438 acres of eastern Baltimore County coastline and $1.5 million to save 835 acres along the Little Pipe Creek in Carroll County, west of Westminster.

Earlier in the day, he announced state grants totaling $9.35 million to preserve more than 2,700 acres in Frederick, Montgomery and Washington counties, including Civil War battle sites at South Mountain in Frederick County and around the Antietam National Battlefield in Washington County.

With yesterday's announcements, the governor had doled out nearly half of the $29 million of this year's Rural Legacy money. The rest will be awarded tomorrow and Monday. Fourteen of the 23 Rural Legacy applications will get funding, state officials said.

Carroll County, which had sought $8 million in Rural Legacy funds, is "basically very pleased" with the $1.5 million grant, said planning director Philip J. Rovang.

"Believe me, [the money] will be gone very quickly," Rovang said. "We have a lot of farmers and landowners in the Little Pipe area that want to participate in the program."

John R. Griffin, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, and one of three members of the Rural Legacy Board who made the selections, said the board tried to fund as many proposals as possible in the first year to spread the largess around the state.

"We couldn't get something like this through the legislature without some nod to the different regions of the state," Griffin said.

At the same time, the Rural Legacy Board decided no county should receive more than two of the grants -- a decision that hurt Baltimore County, which had submitted four proposals.

An advisory committee, which reviewed the proposals, determined that three of the county's proposals met the criteria and should be funded. But Baltimore County lobbied for the fourth -- the coastal plan -- reconfiguring it to better fit the Rural Legacy Program, Griffin said.

As consolation to the county's two proposals that weren't funded -- Long Green Valley and Piedmont -- Ruppersberger came up with $2.7 million in local money.

Of that amount, $1.2 million from local agriculture preservation jTC funds will help preserve Baltimore County land along the Gunpowder River. Those landowners, joining preservationists in Harford County, had sought $23 million to preserve nearly 8,000 acres along the Gunpowder and Deer Creek in Harford.

"Of course we are disappointed, but all of the plans were very good," said Deborah Bowers, chairwoman of the Piedmont Rural Legacy Committee. "We will be happy for anything we can get, but our plan is so large, we will hope to get more in the future."

The county will give $1.5 million to the Long Green Valley area, which had sought $3.8 million to preserve 3,100 acres.

"We're glad the county feels this area also deserves funding," said Kathy Ebert, who helped lead an effort to conserve farmland in Long Green Valley. "We plan to compete for more funds in the future."

The county also elicited a commitment from the governor that Long Green would be chosen for future state funding.

The state decision to fund the lower-ranking Coastal plan raised eyebrows among some preservationists. However, county officials noted the area's importance to the Chesapeake Bay. The proposal also presented the chance to save wildlife habitats and historic sites and create a network of parks, county officials argued.

The county also hopes that Rural Legacy selection will help its efforts to obtain dredging permits for creeks along Middle River, said George G. Perdikakis, director of the Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management.

The county has nine dredging applications before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to widen channels into marinas and waterfront communities, Perdikakis said.

Rural Legacy will demonstrate the county's commitment to protecting the coastal lands, he said.

The Montgomery, Frederick and Washington counties funding is for a joint project seen as a "line of defense" against development, said Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.

In addition to protecting the Civil War sites, the plan includes money to acquire the easement on an 834-acre farm in western Montgomery.

Pub Date: 6/10/98

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