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Letters to the editor

September 03, 1997

Izaak Walton: We deserve shot at making lease work

To the editor:

Over the past few weeks, a great deal has been written about the Izaak Walton League's new lease of the historic Woodmont Rod and Gun Club - much of it based on misinformation.

In December 1995, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) acquired the historic Woodmont Lodge and surrounding 3,400 acres for nearly $1 million less than its appraised value. DNR immediately made 2,000 acres available for unscheduled public use and retained 1,400 acres near the lodge for scheduled activities.

Recognizing that there was no budget for management of the lodge and immediate surroundings, in March 1996 DNR asked the Izaak Walton League to assist it in managing the lodge and 1,400 acres around the lodge and Camp Cleveland - a few rustic lean-tos - while a long-range management plan is developed to make the best use of this magnificent resource. We agreed to try.

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After almost 18 months of painstaking effort, the DNR and the league came up with a plan to form a new league chapter of business and civil leaders who would underwrite the year-round operation and maintenance of the lodge and the surrounding 1,400 acres. In exchange, the chapter would be allowed to manage the lodge and the nearby area during the fall and winter in the traditional and historic fashion that made Woodmont famous. The league believes in trying public/private partnerships like this because we believe that we cannot expect government and taxes to do it all.

During the deer-hunting season, when public demand for access is greatest, this entire area will be open to public hunting. Most of the 1,400-acre area that the league will manage (except for the area immediately around the lodge) will be open through scheduled hunts for youth and other groups with special needs, with careful supervision. During the spring and summer, the opportunities are almost limitless.

Among to the plans for the plans of the new Woodmont chapter is captive release shooting of game birds. While this is a recreational pursuit that not all hunter s enjoy, it is legal and widely practiced in Maryland and throughout the nation. It will be closely supervised under state law by the DNR. This practice is also part of the historic tradition of Woodmont, where Babe Ruth and several presidents came to relax.

The league's lease of Woodmont mayor may not turn out to be a good arrangement for the people of Maryland, who now own Woodmont. It may not be a good arrangement for the Izaak Walton League of America, which has already put thousands of scarce conservation dollars into the project. In spite of some cheap shots that have appeared in the press, we are willing to give it a try.

The league has been serving Maryland and West Virginia's natural resources and people for 75 years without a dime of taxpayer money. Generations of our members have earned our excellent reputation every day of those 75 years by selflessly giving of their time and energy for no personal gain, but to try to make our state and nation better.

We think that we deserve a chance to make this work. If we cannot make it work in the next few years, we will be the first to admit to that face and drop out of the lease arrangement.

Paul W. Hanson

Executive Director

Izaak Walton League

Join that battle against Bally's off-track parlor

To the editor:

On Friday, July 11, the front page of the The Herald-Mail carried a story announcing that the Bally's organization had petitioned the Maryland Racing Commission to allow them to establish an off-track betting parlor in the North End of Hagerstown.

Following this announcement, the Maryland Racing Commission considered this request in Hagerstown on August 13. I attended this meeting and spoke against the proposal. My concern is that the Hagerstown/Washington County community was not adequately represented at the hearing. Though several persons present voiced opposition, they were not from our community and were opposing it solely because it would hurt their own gambling interests. It felt like "the big boys with the big money" were here to strip our community of whatever revenue they could. There was no one in an official capacity to hear the testimony and consider what benefits or liabilities this venture would have on our community.

The commission voted to defer action on Bally's proposal under their next meeting, on Wednesday, Sept. 10 at 11 a.m. at Laurel race course.

I write to ask your assistance in opposing this new gambling establishment. I have been told that our opposition would not affect the commission's decision, for their purpose does not take into consideration the concerns of local communities. Still, I think it important, nonetheless, to speak up as a community and voice our opposition. It certainly can't hurt and could be of some benefit.

If you are willing to speak out against this, I want you to know that you would not stand alone. I am willing to stand with you and I will seek the support of the Washington County Council of Churches and our local faith communities to stand with us.

I encourage you to write the Racing Commission, prior to its Sept. 10 meeting, voicing your opposition to this action. If possible. I encourage you to be present at that meeting. If you are willing to attend, I would be willing to attend with you, if that would be welcome. I am willing to speak to you individually or collectively detailing my reasons for opposition. Please feel free to contact me.

Rev. David M. Buchenroth

President

Washington County

Council of Churches

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