Trust gains, protects slice of bog land in Pasadena

Small, `critical' acreage acquired through deal with developer, county

July 16, 2002|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

In its effort to protect a collection of ecologically rare and fragile bogs on Pasadena's Mountain Road peninsula, the Magothy River Land Trust has acquired 6 acres in the Boulevard Park area of Pasadena, trust officials said.

The property, made up of many small lots along Maryland Avenue and Severn Road, is particularly significant because it includes part of a bog - one of 10 that are clustered on the north shore of the Magothy River, said Sally Hornor, executive administrator of the land trust. In many cases, easements have included only the land surrounding a bog.

"Because the property does have a real bog on it, it makes it a critical piece," said Hornor. "There has been development so close to that area, so it's real important, even though it's not a big piece of land."

The property, which the trust placed under easement last month, includes part of the recently discovered Maryland Avenue Bog, which belongs to the North Gray's Creek bog complex, designated by the state as "wetlands of special concern."

"It's another piece of property, and we're trying to save as much land around the bogs as we can," said Melvin Bender, president of the 14-year-old Magothy River Land Trust, which holds approximately 70 acres in the Magothy watershed under easement.

Bogs are acidic wetlands that provide habitats where only a few plant species can survive, including coast sedge, cranberries and some carnivorous pitcher plants. They act as natural filters for water that eventually ends up in the Chesapeake Bay, and are sensitive to storm-water runoff.

This year, the County Council passed legislation that strengthened the state's development restrictions on land surrounding the bogs.

`Everybody's happy'

The acquisition of the Boulevard Park property came about in an unusual three-way arrangement among the trust, the county and a private developer, said Jim Johnson, an environmental planner with the county.

The developer, Louis P. Reeder of Pasadena, owns the small wooded lots that make up the 6 acres, Bender said. He agreed to put his land under an easement with the Magothy River Land Trust, which restricts development permanently. In exchange for giving up his development rights, the county will waive certain environmental requirements in a future development at another site, and give Reeder "mitigation credits."

In this case, the developer will be excused from reforestation work if it is required where he plans to build, because the Boulevard Park land is wooded.

"It's an unusual partnership because everybody gets what they want," Johnson said. "The county and the Magothy River Land Trust get these very sensitive areas, and the developer gets something also, in the form of mitigation credits."

"The twist on this, I guess, is everybody's happy," he said.

Johnson said the three-way deal came out of a committee of state and county officials, environmentalists and legislators who began meeting about two years ago to come up with ways to protect and preserve the bogs.

"This was a way the committee came up with to creatively acquire property without paying money for it," he said.

Drawing attention

The Magothy River Land Trust and the Mountain Road Peninsula Preservation Committee focused attention on the presence of the bogs when the two groups teamed up three years ago to apply for a state Rural Legacy grant to purchase 1,000 acres for a Magothy River Greenway.

The groups failed to win the grant, but while preparing the lengthy grant application, two bog experts discovered more bogs in the area.

Last month, the county signed a conservation easement to preserve 380 acres on the Magothy's north shore that will secure the viability of the greenway. The land, known as the Looper property, includes two bogs and will be permanently preserved under the county's Program Open Space.

The county bought the property for $4.9 million, of which $2.3 million was covered by a federal grant.

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