A place of learning on hunting ground Groundbreaking: Plans move ahead for a 500-acre, $2.7 million complex near Chase that will include trails and a visitors center.

October 20, 1998|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Wildlife in a crystal and emerald nook off the Chesapeake Bay in eastern Baltimore County soon will be having visitors.

With a ceremonial groundbreaking today, the county is moving ahead with the $2.7 million Marshy Point Nature Center near Chase, phase one of a 500-acre, state-of-the-art complex that includes a learning center, trails, observation deck and canoe docks.

Situated on Dundee and Saltpeter creeks -- once the elite hunting ground of President Benjamin Harrison and baseball legend Babe Ruth -- the environmental education pavilion will serve as the centerpiece for visiting schoolchildren and tourists who want to meander through the pristine expanse of woods.

"When they see plankton and rockfish to kingfishers and eagles, people who visit the center will better understand the Chesapeake Bay -- how beautiful it is and how fragile," said Robert W. Stanhope, Baltimore County's chief naturalist.

County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, who was to join 5th District Councilman Vincent J. Gardina and other officials for today's groundbreaking near the water on Dundee Creek, said the park will further establish the county's waterfront as a spot to visit or study.

"This park is a natural treasure, a living example of a coastal, aquatic environment that gives anyone who sees it a new respect for water quality, wildlife habitats and the importance of protecting the Chesapeake Bay," Ruppersberger said.

As an environmental showpiece, the Marshy Point center will join Oregon Ridge Park Nature Center in Cockeysville, which has been in operation 15 years. More than 50,000 people visit the Oregon Ridge center annually, 10,000 of them schoolchildren on organized visits.

Stanhope, who works for the Department of Recreation and Parks, said the Marshy Point park and center will feature a library and video auditorium, trails and an observation deck facing the water that will be accessible to the disabled. Plans for a tall tower by the water were abandoned because it would not have been wheelchair-accessible.

A parking lot will provide spaces for 41 cars and five buses, he said. The environmentally sensitive project had to satisfy regulations of 10 federal, state and county agencies.

The project is expected to be completed by spring 2000, Stanhope said.

"This will be a classic example to the younger generation when they see that Dundee Creek is absolutely crystal clear," Stanhope said. The area has been free of development and major farming, allowing the surrounding marshes and trees to filter the bay water, he said.

Not everyone is happy with the nature park.

Harry Weiskittel III, whose family has operated a nursery on the creeks since 1922, sold 240 acres to the county for the park. He has second thoughts, although the county sees minimal impact on the land and water.

"It's a beautiful spot, not many pristine areas like it are left in the county and people will come in and destroy the creeks," Weiskittel said.

"A lot of wildlife will disappear because of the noise and man-made pollution," he said.

Weiskittel's son Austin said blue herons will be harassed. "They stand perfectly still and wait for fish to happen by," he said. "The heron are easily spooked, they don't need people bringing in the cans, cigarette butts and noise."

Pub Date: 10/20/98

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