State OKs $2 million for purchase of land in Queen Anne's Co. Funds to help preserve 675-acre Conquest Farms

October 15, 1998|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

The Board of Public Works approved spending $2 million more in state funds yesterday to help Queen Anne's County buy 675 acres with three miles of shoreline on the Corsica and Chester rivers.

The Conservation Fund -- a national nonprofit land conservation group -- also is providing $2 million in federal grants through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the project. Other state and county funds total $690,000.

Ted Moeller, president of the Queen Anne's County commissioners, said the acquisition will nearly double the county's parks and recreation land and will protect a unique site, known as Conquest Farms, from development.

"To us, it's very, very important," Moeller said. "It's the largest land acquisition we've ever made in the county. It's going to be for use by the public -- for public parks, gardens, hiking trails and also for bird-watching."

Jodi R. O'Day, the Maryland representative of the Conservation Fund, said the acquisition is important in "protecting almost 700 acres of vital habitat for migrating waterfowl in the Chesapeake Bay watershed."

Gov. Parris N. Glendening said the site is the heart of the "rural legacy" area that the county has designated for protection from development. Its acquisition will protect the quality of life in the area for generations, he said.

Conquest Farms consists of two adjacent parcels owned by members of the same family.

The $2 million in "open space" program money approved by the Board of Public Works yesterday is going toward the $2.44 million price of a 305-acre parcel. A $400,000 grant under the state's new Lands End Rural Legacy Program was approved for the project in June, while the county put up $40,000.

The other, 370-acre parcel will be purchased with $2 million in federal grants obtained through the Conservation Fund and $250,000 from the county.

The property owner, Stephen K. Wilson, will retain 71 acres, a historic manor house and other farm buildings, but he is donating an easement to the Conservation Fund that will protect the land from development.

Wes R. Johnson, parks and recreation director for Queen Anne's, said Wilson, who lives in the manor house where he grew up, has supported the project. "He does not want [the property] developed," Johnson said.

He added that Wilson contributed to the success of the project "by accepting less than the true value of the property."

Johnson said negotiations for the purchase have been held for more than 2 1/2 years. "It's been a long time, and a whole lot of people were involved in making this work," he said.

Johnson said plans for the site include expanding a public beach on the Chester River, adding about 100 acres of natural gardens, creating wetlands for waterfowl and building a small farm museum. A network of trails would tie the features together, he said.

Pub Date: 10/15/98

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