Anne Arundel greenway plan in works

Officials to unveil proposal to protect natural resource areas

October 23, 2001|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

County officials will unveil a new initiative tonight to preserve Anne Arundel County's natural resources - from the Patuxent River, where blue herons fish for food, to the rare bogs that thrive in Pasadena wetlands.

The public will have an opportunity to see and comment on the proposed Greenway Master Plan, which identifies unprotected forests, waterways and wildlife habitats, at tonight's meeting in Glen Burnie and one Oct. 30 in Harwood.

The proposal links 10 "hubs" - defined as at least 250 acres of environmentally sensitive open space - with "corridors" for wildlife movement or recreational use. Planners hope to have a final greenway plan to present to County Executive Janet S. Owens in early spring.

The proposed greenway plan features some well-established recreation trails, including the Baltimore and Annapolis Trail and the BWI Trail, but its focus is on protecting the county's undisturbed lands.

"To some people, greenways mean trails, to some they mean open space," said Clive Graham, a planner with Environmental Resources Management, an Annapolis consulting firm working with the county on the project. "Anne Arundel County has taken a broad approach, that is to say, these have been designed to be ecological greenways, some of which will have recreational use, and on some there will be no trails and no public access."

Brian J. Woodward, the county's chief of natural and cultural resources, said the intent of the greenway project is to create a plan that identifies the county's unspoiled natural areas before they are threatened by development.

"For the most part, conservation land purchases have been done catch-as-catch-can - not just in Anne Arundel County, but anywhere on the East Coast," Woodward said. "If somebody wants to develop 200 acres and people realize it would be really horrible, the government runs in and buys the land."

The Greenway Master Plan, he said, "identifies and prioritizes what's important to save before it gets to the development stage or before it becomes an industrial park."

Inclusion in the plan does not automatically confer protected status on a property. And it does not replace existing land conservation initiatives such as Rural Legacy and Program Open Space, both run by the state.

"All the greenway plan does is put lines on a piece of paper," Woodward said. "It's just another tool that the county can use to decide how to get the most use for our conservation dollar."

For the past few months, Woodward has been making the rounds of community associations trying to build grass-roots support for the greenway plan.

"Everybody I talk to understands the greenway's importance to the quality of life in Anne Arundel County, and how it benefits water quality and wildlife," he said.

At the public meetings, the proposal will be displayed on two maps - each 9 feet tall and 8 feet wide - that lay out the greenway network. The maps were prepared over the past four months by the consulting firm Environmental Resources Management, which was hired by the county for $70,000.

ERM used aerial photographs of the county and geography software to establish the greenway's hubs and corridors.

"It allows you to pick out individual houses, but not individual trees," said ERM planner Graham.

Anne Arundel's Greenway Master Plan ties in with the statewide greenways effort, called GreenPrint, and the county's 3-year-old Small Area Plan land-use project.

Much of the property identified in the proposed Greenway Master Plan is privately owned, and Woodward said the county hopes to gain landowners' cooperation in protecting it.

That could mean placing the property in a preservation program or providing the owner with money for property improvements such as stream bank restoration or reforestation.

Working in conjunction with the county, the environmental group South County Exchange recently received a $25,000 grant from Chesapeake Bay Foundation to identify proposed greenway properties threatened by development. The group also is working with property owners to participate in land conservation programs.

County officials will present the Greenway Master Plan at 7 p.m. today at the Glen Burnie Improvement Association, 19 Crain Highway South.

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