Smithsonian research center receives Anne Arundel tract

Environmental prize home to many species

January 12, 2003|By Dan Harsha | Dan Harsha,SUN STAFF

Exxon Land Development has donated to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center an environmentally sensitive parcel of land in Edgewater, adjacent to the sprawling county school complex in South River.

The 96-acre tract, bounded by Route 214 and Muddy Creek Road, contains the headwaters of Glebe Creek, a tributary of the South River, said Anson Hines, assistant director of SERC. The land has been used by SERC for several years to observe migrant bird populations.

"It's a very interesting parcel which has a diverse array of species," Hines said.

SERC was established in 1965 on a parcel near Edgewater on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. SERC conducts research that includes the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, focusing on issues such as water quality levels and preserving endangered species.

Ed Anhert, manager of contributions for ExxonMobil Corp., said the land -- one of the last remaining undeveloped Exxon holdings in the area -- no longer was needed by the company. Exxon Land Development expressed a willingness to protect the land from development.

"It had been in our inventory for quite some time and was no longer a critical business asset," he said. ExxonMobil will use the land donation as a tax deduction, but the land has not been appraised for tax purposes.

There also was broad community support to keep the land undeveloped. Exxon Land Development worked with SERC and the local community to finalize the deal, which took nearly two years to complete. SERC took control of the land Dec. 31.

Restrictions were placed on the development of the land because of its environmentally sensitive nature.

Hines said SERC will integrate the acquisition into its array of programs. SERC plans to further develop research on the site and, as funds become available, develop education programs.

Nearly 12,000 students from across the region visit the site each year. SERC also sponsors a number of programs for Anne Arundel County schoolchildren on topics ranging from oyster reef communities to water quality testing.

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