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Deal near for private use of state hunt club

July 16, 1997

By DAVID DISHNEAU

Associated Press Writer

HANCOCK - A private group is close to signing a deal for exclusive use of the historic, state-owned Woodmont hunting lodge and a third of its acreage for six months a year, according to negotiators.

A newly formed chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America would pay nothing to use the property during its occupancy from October through March but would maintain the stately stone lodge and other structures, saving the state as much as $150,000 a year, according to Michael Nelson, director of land and water conservation for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

During the spring and summer months, the public would have access to all of the 3,425 wooded acres the state acquired when it bought the Woodmont Rod and Gun Club for $3.1 million in 1995, Nelson said. He said the DNR and Walton League could run hunter-education programs at the 15-room lodge under the plan, which may come before the Board of Public Works for approval by mid-September.

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The private group includes some wealthy Baltimoreans, prompting complaints from local sportsmen that the former hunting preserve in western Washington County will remain a retreat for the elite. But Nelson said the agreement would protect Woodmont for the public.

''We are trying to provide greater public access to the property than would probably be the case if we were to manage it on our own,'' he said.

Nelson said the state would pay for repairs, estimated at $300,000, to the lodge's decaying roof and other structures.

For 125 years, Woodmont was a private club where members including Delaware industrialist Eugene DuPont invited such guests as President Grover Cleveland and Babe Ruth to hunt deer, turkey and pheasant while staying at the lodge overlooking the Potomac River. The owners sought a buyer when they couldn't afford the upkeep.

The new Walton League chapter includes Calman Zamoiski, head of a Baltimore distribution company and president of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's board of directors, and Baltimore attorney Larry Scriggins, according to Paul Hansen, executive director of the Izaak Walton League of America in Gaithersburg. Neither man returned phone calls.

Joe Dietele, who belongs to a Washington County Izaak Walton chapter, said he was glad for the organization's involvement but angry that only the new chapter would have full access to Woodmont during the deer and bird seasons.

''It's going back to an old boys' club, like it used to be back in the golden days of Woodmont,'' he said.

Hansen said the Walton League wants to preserve Woodmont's traditions while making the lodge ''a national showcase'' for hunter education.

''If you just open that lodge to everybody, the place would be destroyed within a year,'' he said.

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