Look Beyond Session to Gov.'s Environmental Legacy

"When you're finished at the end of eight years, what has changed? That's what it really comes down to." With those words, Gov. Parris Glendening might have been consoling friends of the environment about this year's General Assembly.

Certainly, Jack Sprat filled the environmental plate this year. The potential entree, utility deregulation, served up little in the way of strengthened clean air protections.

Still, five years into the Glendening era, friends of the environment have some thanks to give. Our early money says that this governor will be remembered for putting his money where his mouth is. The smartest thing we've seen him do under the rubric of Smart Growth is follow the advice of Maryland's Democrat in Heaven, Louis Goldstein, who counseled "Buy land. The Good Lord isn't making any more of it."

Last year, Glendening purchased rare open tracts on the Potomac - Chapman's Landing - and on Chesapeake Bay - Franklin Point. Both environmentally sensitive areas were snatched from the jaws of development after long, hard, grass-roots lobbying. Listening to citizens as well as Goldstein, the governor decided the millions spent now - $25.3 million for Chapman's Landing and $3 million for Franklin Point - were well invested in our environmental savings account. Both are now state parks, with Franklin Point so new that local planners have still to decide what to do with that lovely public space.

This year, Glendening stretched his land purchases almost to Maryland's western border, adding Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County to our public holdings. The popular lake - known as the Chesapeake of Western Maryland - went up for sale after the utility that built and owned it retired it as too costly a source of modern-day electricity.

We're glad we have a governor who looks at the big picture because we want him to keep on investing in Maryland's environmental account. With more than three years left in the Glendening era, there's lots still to be done. Now that the busy legislative session is over, we suggest starting right in.

The next big opportunity would both carry the Glendening legacy to the Patuxent River and leave it plain for all to see. Tucked between the river and Route 4 just southeast of the Wayson's Corner bridge, 622 invaluable acres lie in the balance.

The value of this land lies both in itself and in its context. The wetland is not only one of the last great nurseries of native wild rice but also would add a huge chunk to the Patuxent Greenway.

Above and below the bridge on both sides of the river, vast stretches of land have already been protected, either as parks or protection easements. With Patuxent River Park lands in the Marlboro Meadows Unit, Billingsley Point, Western Branch, Mount Calvert and Jug Bay Natural Areas, Prince George's County is well ahead of its eastern neighbor, Anne Arundel County. This 622 acres would more than double Anne Arundel's present holdings, the 617 acres of Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary.

All that greenland merges to the south with state-owned Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, which protects five and one-half miles on the river's western shore and three miles on its eastern shore.

Clearly, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for both Anne Arundel County and the state. The two have current experience in land-saving partnerships, having worked together to buy Franklin Point. Under former executive John Gary, the county was the initiating partner then; now the county is caught by a tight budget.

With the former Genstar property up for sale, citizens are again organizing, including many who helped turn the balance in favor of Chapman's Landing and Franklin Point. We encourage them once again to take their case to a governor bent on accumulating an environmental legacy.

And we encourage him to take the long view, listen - and act.

| Issue 15 |

Volume VII Number 15
April 15-21, 1999
New Bay Times

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