Greenway plan wins wide support Group seeks funds from state, county to buy Magothy land

October 26, 1998|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

There's another effort brewing to keep pristine waterfront land out of the hands of developers, this time along the Magothy River in Pasadena.

Unlike previous attempts to hold off the bulldozers on the banks of the Patapsco, Potomac, Susquehanna and Severn rivers, there is widespread support for their crusade. Everybody from the governor to the county executive is willing to buy the land. And community leaders are drawing up lists of properties to buy.

Identifying the properties, making appraisals, negotiating with owners and buying the land could take three or four years.

That is longer than the community leaders who envisioned the Magothy River Greenway had expected, but they hope it will come to fruition.

"With persistence I think we can do this," said Anne Arundel County Democratic Del. Joan Cadden, who has led the greenway effort since last year. "We need to be patient and careful, especially when working out compromises, and hopefully we can get across to the developers that this is an important project."

Members of the Mountain Road Peninsula Preservation Committee and other residents are hoping to use state and county funds to purchase 700 acres along the river -- 400 acres off Mountain Road near North Shore Road under contract to Winchester Homes for development, almost 50 acres near Grey's Bog off Long Point Road, where developer Cattail Associates has been waiting out a building moratorium, and two islands at the mouth of the river next to Gibson Island, where developers have expressed an interest in selling.

"We wanted to see something done down here," said James Bilenki, co-chairman of the preservation group. "As a neighbor, you just get tired of having all this traffic shoved down your throat. The money's out there. You just have to jump through hoops to get to it."

Persuading developers to sell valuable waterfront property to low-budget environmental groups has never been easy. The Magothy River Land Trust, a little-known group in Pasadena, has been at it since its founding five years ago.

"We haven't been as successful as we would have liked," said Melvin Bender, president of the land trust.

The group has acquired easements on a few parcels, but Bender said the group is hoping that combining its resources with those of greenway advocates might be what the area needs for their efforts to be taken seriously.

The issue of preservation, Bender said, is relatively recent on the peninsula, because it made the transition from summer resort area to year-round community 2 1/2 decades ago, compared with other areas near the Patuxent and Severn rivers that have been established for a half-century.

The greenway effort began 18 months ago, an outgrowth of meetings about notoriously congested Mountain Road. Water running from the pavement of a new Mountain Road subdivision into Grey's Bog became the catalyst.

The bog -- an acidic swamp that is home to coast sedge and other endangered plant species not otherwise found in this area west of Ocean City -- once was buffered by acres of forest that protected it from pollutants. Greenway advocates hope to purchase Cattail Associates' nearby property, where developers want to build 18 homes but have been thwarted by residents and a building moratorium.

Advocates argue Cattail Associates' project endangers the bog because it would clear the forest that protects it and allow unfiltered rain water and other pollutants to wash through. They believe they can persuade Cattail to sell if a building moratorium on the peninsula is extended past December.

County Executive John G. Gary said last week he supports keeping the moratorium, even if it is to the detriment of Cattail Associates, a large campaign contributor.

Pub Date: 10/26/98

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