Robin Hood's pot of green Preservation: In an Arundel land of Friar Tuck and Nottingham Road, a fairy tale comes true as 50 acres of woods are bought by the state.

September 04, 1998|By Kirsten Scharnberg | Kirsten Scharnberg,SUN STAFF

On the edge of Sherwood Forest, down the river from Robin Hood Hill, past Nottingham Road in the picturesque neighborhood of Friar Tuck, an old man fishes on a pond the

state paid $1 million to save.

Life is good here, in this oasis of undeveloped woodlands where the smattering of summer cottages are painted green so as not to clash with the trees.

In Anne Arundel County -- where housing developments rapidly are replacing woodlands -- environmental groups fought hard to save 700 acres of forest and waterfront nicknamed the "Green Cathedral" because it is one of the last large, untouched tracts along the Severn River.

The path into the heavily wooded area is covered with moss and fallen leaves. Hundreds of spider webs extend from the trees. The sun can barely filter through the thick trees. And the poison oak and ivy lie in wait.

Talking about what might have happened here in just a handful of months or years, Bart Key's sentence trails off. "No one wants to see this become just another "

The manager of Sherwood Forest -- a nearby, rustic summer resort -- can't even bring himself to say the word.

Subdivision.

For more than a decade, people have furiously fought to save this stretch of trees that surround a blue heron mating ground and a stockpile of Indian artifacts dating to the 1600s.

They've hassled the folks from the county, the flacks for the state, the fanatics about the environment. They're on a first-name basis with the governor.

And in this day and age when net profits are more protected than nature, when townhouse housing is preferable to heron habitat, they won.

On Wednesday, the state Board of Public Works approved spending $1 million of Program Open Space funds to buy the 50 acres surrounding Brewer Pond, which sits on the edge of the Green Cathedral. And the County Council is considering throwing in another $165,000 to cement the deal.

"If we would have lost the pond, everything would have started to change," said Bud Dunning, who for 30 years has lived in a cottage in neighboring Sherwood Forest and fishes in Brewer Pond for hours a day.

From Dunning's little canoe, not much has changed here since 1920.

The blue herons are still breathtaking when they take off. The pier is still only for fishing and sitting -- no boat docking allowed. And all the faded signs in the surrounding forest still unmistakably read "No Trespassing."

This man who says real fishermen "don't care about eating or drinking if the perch are biting" can't imagine looking out from Brewer Pond, toward the trees of the Green Cathedral, and seeing $500,000 houses instead.

For these people who have seen so much develop all around them, the Green Cathedral was the place they drew the line. The Severn River Association dug in its heels back in the 1980s, and it paid off this week.

But things haven't always gone smoothly. Some of the land took more than a decade to acquire -- one benefactor died just before signing some paperwork. One of the leaders in the fight, William Moulden, has dubbed this week's success "a bona fide miracle."

"Thank goodness it worked out," said Dunning, as he prepared to take some of his 20-fish catch to an elderly neighbor in Sherwood Forest, a gated community where all landmarks are named for characters in the famous tale of a good-humored outlaw who lived and died while hidden deep in the woods.

Pub Date: 9/04/98

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