March 25, 2007

LAST WEEK'S ISSUE: -- The state has scrapped its quest to build an equestrian park in Anne Arundel County amid new, daunting local opposition: a competing bid from the county to turn the former Naval Academy Dairy Farm into a working farm for the public, community gardens and a botanical garden.

J. Robert Burk, executive director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board, said the County's move eliminated any chance for the state to muster the necessary political support -specifically from County Executive John R. Leopold - for the estimated $114.2 million project off Route 3 in Gambrills.

"We were trying to reach out with open arms to the community and its leadership, but that got lost in the mix," he said. "We were not going to bring a proposal if local representatives were not in favor of it. It was disappointing, to say the least."

Burk said the board and the Maryland Stadium Authority remain committed to a horse park in Maryland.

Harford, Cecil, Carroll, Frederick and Wicomico counties had competed with Anne Arundel, but Arundel's central location won over Stadium Authority officials, who selected it in 2005 over Cecil County.

State officials had laid out a blueprint in Gambrills for a visitors center, a museum, an indoor show ring with 2,500 fixed seats and stables for 840 horses. It was expected to draw 800,000 visitors a year.

The county submitted its bid to the Navy on Monday to keep the site agricultural. Other features the county proposes there include a solar energy farm, a farm museum, pick-your-own produce and events like a fall corn maze.

What do you think of the county's idea?

Plan would serve long-term interests

Our local representation, including County Councilman Jamie Benoit and John Leopold, are living up to their campaign promises in presenting a farm center proposal to the Navy.

This bid encourages both agricultural and educational uses that serve the long-term interests of the taxpayers and reserve open land in sensitive areas.

This was not the case with the "equestrian" arena. The Maryland Stadium Authority plan would have paved most of the Navy farm in order to have parking and outbuildings and all the other poorly planned consequences of an arena complex, just to service infrequent special events. They are up to their withers in horse manure if they think an estimated $110 million development conserves open space - only if monumental parking lots are your idea of open space.

A county farm center will show fifth-graders how their food originates. There may be actual horses doing actual work behind a plow, a sight that could still be seen in the county as little as 15 years ago. A working venue for the technology of agriculture, organic farming and solar energy is long overdue.

Tony Karwoski Crownsville

Healthy for people and environment

John Leopold's environmental-friendly solution for the land can also bring good times for families of Anne Arundel County. It is a good solution.

Who says a Republican isn't for the environment? Here we are looking to stop the idea of a horse park, which would mean much more traffic, congestion, and people, which would destroy the land and dirty up the air even more.

On top of all that, Leopold suggests using solar energy there, and allow people to use the area to grow vegetables. Not only is this a healthy thing for people, it helps the environment.

Victor Henderson Glen Burnie

Healthy farms mean a healthy bay

I was pleased to learn of County Executive Leopold's decision to submit a bid to the Navy, which would, in effect, maintain the former Naval Academy Dairy Farm as an agricultural site. The county's proposal is a gift not only to all Marylanders, but it is a gift that I take personally.

A Gambrills resident since 1976, I've photographed those rolling hills numerous times, and the dairy farm has always been a pleasant sight. These days, I also take my granddaughter to visit the animals on the farm. I'm delighted she has this opportunity so close to home.

Now, I've become more aware of the value of the farm as not only a beautiful sight, but also a valuable asset for Marylanders. I'm a volunteer for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and one simple, but important lesson I've learned is: healthy farms = healthy bay.

As a volunteer, I'm working on a CBF event, "Film, Food, Farms, Our Bay: All Local," at 7 p.m. April 26 at the Maryland Sunrise Farm (the former dairy farm). This event will help raise awareness of the importance of local farms to our communities.

I would encourage anyone who is interested to attend. Register at www.cbf.org/calendar or contact Heather Tuckfield at htuckfield@cbf.org for more information.

Jane C. Cooke Gambrills

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