Program Open Space threatened

March 03, 2011

As a lifelong Marylander, I believe that one of our most important assets is the wealth of parks and open spaces dotting the landscape. For over 40 years, the state of Maryland has used an innovative national model — Program Open Space — to provide a dedicated pool of funds to be used for the preservation and development of open space.

The program has used funds generated by the transfer/recordation taxes on land sales to help preserve open space. Marylanders who have bought or sold homes or other properties have already helped to pay for more than 352,192 acres of state and local parks that wouldn't exist otherwise.

Sadly, the ongoing viability of this vital program now faces a serious challenge. Analysts for the Department of Legislative Services have recently recommended that the revenue streams that support the program be permanently diverted directly to fund the state's operating budget, rather than to support land preservation. This recommendation runs counter to the statutory commitment our elected officials made years ago and represents "a severe breach of the public trust," as pointed out by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in testimony opposing this draconian suggestion.

The development of parks and the preservation of open space are vital for everyone. As a state, we must now be as innovative as the original creators of POS and seek out a way to provide sufficient and sustainable funding for all of our parks and open spaces.

Jeffrey Smith, Nottingham

The writer is the chairman of legislative committee of the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association.

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