Mary Patricia O'Hara Marsh, an environmental activist who was playing a critical role in the expansion of the Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas facility, died Thursday at the Anne Arundel Medical Center of complications from a stroke she suffered the day before. The Arnold resident was 48.
"Mary was forward-thinking," said Michael Frederick, the director of operations at the Calvert County natural gas facility. "Her utmost concern was the environment. She saw the big picture. She made sure as much of the environment was protected as possible."
Mrs. Marsh had been working closely with representatives from Dominion Resources Inc., the Virginia-based company that runs the Cove Point facility, as they sought to expand the number of holding tanks from five to seven. That project is slated for completion late next year.
The expansion project is considered by many to be a model of how environmental groups and companies can cooperate. Mrs. Marsh had recently hosted a delegation of officials from Hong Kong who hope to build an LNG plant before the 2008 Olympic Games in China.
"What she tried to do is create an example of something like that that could work," said Paulette Hammond, president of the Maryland Conservation Council. "How it doesn't have to be an adversarial relationship between the community and a big corporation.
"This is a humongous loss of a brain that had an incredible amount of information in it," Mrs. Hammond said. "She got people talking to each other. She was a behind-the-scenes person."
Born in Youngstown, Ohio, Mary Patricia O'Hara graduated from Cardinal Mooney High School in 1977 and Ohio University in 1981. After graduating, she took a sales job at a computer store near Dayton, Ohio, where she met her future husband, Steve Marsh, who was a customer.
The couple had two daughters while living in Ohio, and they moved to the Annapolis area in 1989 when Mr. Marsh took a job at Fort Meade.
Mrs. Marsh became active in environmental issues after the county government proposed building a trash transfer station in the early 1990s near her daughter's school, Windsor Farm Elementary, on the Broadneck Peninsula.
"It would have been silly," Mr. Marsh said. "It would have had these big trucks going through on this very narrow road."
She went on to become president of the Whispering Woods Community Association. "That got her involved with the environmental issues and political stuff," he said.
In 1996, she managed Janice L. Graham's congressional race, but her candidate lost in the Democratic primary.
The experience inspired her to run for a seat on the Anne Arundel County Council two years later. "She gave it a shot," Mr. Marsh said. She lost to Republican Cliff Roop.
That year, she became the legislative chairwoman for the Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club. "She learned about issues in depth," said Bonnie Bix, a Sierra Club at-large member. "She always did her homework. Doing the research necessary." Later she became president of the Maryland Conservation Council, a coalition of environmental groups.
Over the years, she was often quoted in The Sun on local environmental issues, including her views opposing a bike path in Howard County, concerns about strip-mining in Western Maryland, limiting the size of dairy farms and opposing a bingo hall on Broadneck peninsula.
In 2005, she became an environmental consultant for EcoLogix Group, and recently she was a member of the gubernatorial transition team making policy recommendations on energy issues.
"She wanted to fix things," Mr. Marsh said. "She sees the way things are and wanted to change them before we kill ourselves."
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Fellows, Helfenbein and Newnam Cremation and Funeral Care, 814 Bestgate Road, Annapolis.
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Marsh is survived by daughters Elizabeth and Kathryn. She is also survived by a sister, Kathleen Bridget Shilling of Austintown, Ohio.