Score One More for Chesapeake Bay
by Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.
With last week's announcement that the state and county have successfully negotiated to purchase and preserve Franklin Point, yet another victory has been won for the Chesapeake Bay. As one of the last remaining parcels of undeveloped land on the Shady Side peninsula, Franklin Point is a coastal resource that will be treasured now and for centuries to come. This is an historical and environmental legacy for the citizens of the region and the state.
In the wake of progress we all too often have given over the land on which our rich heritage was born. Roadways, shopping centers and housing developments have gradually replaced the open fields and rolling hills of yesteryear.
Anne Arundel County has seen some substantial growth during the last century, but it still retains much of its rural character and agrarian roots, thanks in part to the persistent efforts of its citizens and organizations like South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development, SACReD, who fought so diligently to preserve Franklin Point. I applaud their enthusiasm and conviction during the lengthy process, as well as their relentless determination.
In such causes, they are not alone. Franklin Point is but one of dozens of properties saved from development through the state's environmental programs. Program Open Space, which funds the Franklin Point purchase, was established almost 20 years ago to coordinate the purchase of natural resource lands and development of recreational facilities throughout the state. Over $600 million has been spent by the state and local governments to help gain 200,000 acres. Over the 29-year history of Program Open Space, District 27 has received more than $22 million for preserving our environment and green spaces. Since 1995, $14 million of that went directly to Anne Arundel County projects, including funding this year for the expansion of Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary.
During the last four years, the General Assembly has taken strong action in several areas to improve our environment and to preserve our land heritage. To help control the rate of urban sprawl and to preserve the state's rural heritage, the Maryland legislature targeted funds to support growth and development in existing towns and cities with infrastructure such as water and sewer. As the Smart Growth plan encourages growth in these areas, it also helps deter development of new areas and thereby helps to preserve them. Maryland's Smart Growth program is the first of its kind in the nation, and many other states are flocking to adopt substantially similar laws. This program alone will save our precious natural resources and wildlife for many years to come.
To further contain sprawl and to protect Maryland's natural resources, agricultural industry and environment, the Rural Legacy Program was created. Through comprehensive efforts among state and local governments and land trusts, it provides focus and funding to protect large contiguous tracts of farms, forests and natural areas. The General Assembly earmarked $140 million over the next five years to buy farmland and open spaces threatened by development.
Companion programs such as Brownfields, which encourages reuse of already existing industrial properties, have helped both the business and environmental communities. The goal of the program is twofold: to expedite voluntary clean-up of contaminated sites and slow the loss of greenfields to development.
Environmentally conscientious and committed individuals and groups throughout Maryland who advocate for the preservation of our natural resources share the same vision that has inspired the General Assembly to enact these programs. We are stewards of Chesapeake Bay, the Patuxent, Potomac and Severn rivers, farms and parkland, forests and wetland. Once these resources are lost, they can never be recreated. This is a responsibility I, with the members of the General Assembly, take very seriously.
Editor's note: Senate President Miller represents District 27. Miller's Republican opponent, Bobby Sturgell, explained his motives for the race two weeks ago. We welcome all voices for consideration in this space.
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Volume VI Number 43
October 29 - November 4, 1998
New Bay Times
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