Her land has received a lot of attention, but Beverly Looper has avoided it.
Yesterday, the longtime Pasadena resident stepped briefly into the spotlight as county and state officials gathered to mark the acquisition of 460 acres in the Magothy River watershed - 390 of them owned by Looper until last month. The county bought her land for nearly $5 million and placed most of it under a permanent conservation easement.
The purchase ended four years of delicate negotiations with the Looper family, and preserves one of the last large pieces of open space between Baltimore and Annapolis. The land is the centerpiece of a proposed Magothy River Greenway to protect environmentally sensitive areas on the Pasadena peninsula.
Friends cajoled Looper into making an appearance at yesterday's ceremony, attended by county and state officials, environmentalists and politicians.
"I'm pleasantly surprised that Mrs. Looper came out today," Del. Joan Cadden said at the event, held on a portion of the Looper property that has been used as community ball fields for decades.
"She could have sold this property for a lot more money, and she chose to keep the property pristine because she knew the problems that growth would cause on this peninsula," said Cadden, a Brooklyn Park Democrat who played a leading role in securing funding for the property.
Seated next to County Executive Janet S. Owens, Looper listened to a succession of speakers praise her decision to preserve the land that she treasures as a haven for wildlife.
Animals "have to have a place to go. The people have enough," Looper said afterward.
The Maryland Environmental Trust and the Magothy River Land Trust will hold a conservation easement on 370 acres of the Looper property, permanently protecting it from development. The abundant forested areas will be preserved, and existing trails will be maintained for hiking and horseback riding. The land also contains several rare bog ecosystems discovered there during the past three years.
The remaining 20 acres contain community ball fields developed by Looper's husband, Edward Looper, who died in 1975. The fields have been maintained by the Lake Shore Athletic Association, but will be turned over to the county Department of Recreation and Parks for maintenance and upgrades.
"This means that the idea of the greenway can be a reality to have a corridor for wildlife and for the public to use," said Sally Hornor, executive administrator of the Magothy River Land Trust.
The county also announced yesterday the acquisition of a second property on the upper reaches of the Magothy River. Called Beachwood Park, the 71-acre forested area was formerly an amusement park and includes a strip of waterfront, one-third of a mile long, along the Magothy River. The county paid $1.2 million for the land with state Program Open Space and county money, and will maintain the property for hiking, fishing and nature study.
The Magothy River Land Trust first conceived the idea of a greenway, and the organization targeted the Looper property in 1998 as a critical component of the plan. But the trust had to act quickly because the Looper land was under contract to a housing developer.
Trust President Melvin Bender contacted the Trust for Public Land - a national nonprofit organization that works with communities to preserve land threatened by development - and asked for help. The organization agreed to assist in acquiring the property, and Julie Enger, of the Trust for Public Land's Baltimore office, assumed the role of project manager.
Enger and Looper established a good working relationship, and the Trust for Public Land entered into an option agreement with her in April 2000 to buy 390 acres of her property. The next step was to put together the financing. That took another two years.
Looper retains ownership of an additional 200 acres.
Looper's contract with a developer was delayed and eventually terminated.
"Mrs. Looper often says she's so thankful it happened," Enger said. "She did not want to have to go through with development.