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Land purchases promoted

August 06, 1998|By MATTHEW BIENIEK

Buying new land for parks should take priority over developing existing park land in Washington County, two local Sierra Club representatives said Tuesday.

Eric Whitenton and Joe Swope testified at a public hearing on the proposed Land Preservation and Recreation Plan for Washington County before the County Commissioners. Both are members of The Sierra Club-Catoctin Group.

The five-year plan is an update of the 1993 plan. Preparation of the plan is required to make the county eligible for Program Open Space funds.

Program Open Space is administered by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

"It's hard to go back to park land once land is developed. And development is proceeding rapidly," Whitenton said.

Even if park development must be delayed if funds are used for land acquisition, it should be done because undeveloped land is becoming more difficult to acquire, Whitenton said.

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Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the county exceeds state-recommended goals for park acreage. The Maryland Office of Planning recommends 15 acres of park land for every 1,000 citizens.

The county has 16 acres of land per 1,000 residents, said Bill Stachoviak, county park planner.

Swope, a County Commissioner candidate, said his group believes 30 acres per 1,000 population would be a better goal.

Swope and Whitenton were the only people who testified at the hearing.

Whitenton said other concerns about the plan included development of park land, parking lots and roads in parks, and decisions on which land should be bought for parks.

Development in park lands, including ball fields, should be clustered to maintain natural areas, Whitenton said.

Parking lots and roads in parks should be kept to a minimum, especially to preserve wetlands, he said.

And land purchases should preserve contiguous greenways rather than isolated islands of natural land, he said.

Washington County received $513,415 from Program Open Space for 1999, said Ron Kidd, Washington County director of recreation and parks. The state requires 25 percent of the funds to go to land acquisition, and 75 percent for development of existing parks, he said.

Kidd said the state program provides almost all the money available for land acquisition in the county.

The Sierra Club-Catoctin Group has 500 members in Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties, Swope said.

Residents have 10 days to submit written comments on the plan. The commissioners will decide whether to approve the plan at a future public meeting.

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