State funds to protect county land

$4.3 million approved to preserve 593 acres in coastal, rural areas

January 09, 2003|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

The state Board of Public Works approved $4.3 million yesterday for the protection of coastal and agricultural land in Baltimore County.

The funding will enable the county to preserve 593 acres in three areas, all of which are facing significant development pressure, said County Executive James T. Smith Jr., who testified before the board on behalf of the funding.

"The board has helped us honor our commitment to citizens and to future generations to protect our key natural resources - the Chesapeake Bay, our drinking water supplies and working farms," Smith said. "These lands are essential to our agricultural economy and to sustaining a high quality of life."

The money will be used to purchase six parcels on the Holly Neck peninsula in eastern Baltimore County. The 233 acres of nontidal wetlands, forest buffer and shoreline will complete a contiguous block of 1,500 acres in Baltimore County's Coastal Rural Legacy Area.

David A.C. Carroll, director of the county's Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management, said the property, which has been the subject of longstanding contention between developers and community groups, will be used for low-impact recreational and educational uses.

"What [the county] has done is to protect a very large block of forested, nontidal wetlands - habitat for an incredible variety of birds and everything else down there," Carroll said. "It's just unusual to have that kind of a block of land this close to an urbanized area."

The county also will use the state funding to buy development rights for 329 acres of farmland and woods in the Piney Run Rural Legacy Area of northwest Baltimore County. Both properties adjoin 8,000 acres of protected land.

The land comprises two farms - the 89-acre Finney property and a 240-acre parcel owned by Trenton Mill Farms, which produces about a quarter of the grain grown in the county.

Ann Jones, rural legacy coordinator for the Valleys Planning Council, said Trenton Mill Farms is doubly important: Not only is the property on Piney Run, a stream whose water quality the council is trying to protect, but it is also the centerpiece of one of the largest agricultural operations in the county.

Trenton Mill Farms does much of the grain storage and drying in the area. As the county attempts to maintain a critical mass of active farming, a big player like Trenton Mill Farms is particularly important, she said.

"It's really one of those properties that says, `Yes, agriculture is going to continue and is important in the area,'" Jones said.

Finally, the county will buy 31 acres of open, gently sloping land in the Jacksonville area, which will be used for recreational fields.

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