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Fort Frederick buying 24 acres

March 25, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Fort Frederick State Park is buying 24 acres of neighboring land to prevent its future development.

"It's going to benefit the park in perpetuity," said Park Manager Ralph Young.

The purchase eliminates the potential for commercial and residential development beside the park, he said.

The triangular parcel may also have historical significance.

At the time of the fort's construction in 1756, a wagoner described in his journal a village of 18 buildings, according to Young.

The village has not been discovered, but an aerial photograph of the land shows a line that may have been the original road to Fort Frederick, Young said. The park might one day commission an archaeological excavation to look for those buildings.

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Andrew J. Michael, who owns the land, said he was planning to build a house there. When he drilled a well last spring, Department of Natural Resources representatives approached him about a sale.

The state paid for three contracted appraisals, according to Michael. The lowest appraised value was $88,800 and the highest was $103,800, he said.

DNR planned to use Program Open Space funds to buy the land, but the state could not exceed the low amount, Young said. The park had to pay the difference or not buy the land.

Young turned to The Friends of Fort Frederick for help. The nonprofit organization chipped in $15,000 to seal the deal.

"There was no question in our minds that this contribution was critical to the park's future," said Scott Allen, president of the organization. "It's good to be able to save a little part of our past."

Formed in 1993, The Friends of Fort Frederick provides volunteers for park functions.

It also has raised funds that went toward renovating a meeting room, paid $1,500 to preserve historic documents and donated equipment, including a utility trailer, snowblower and two-way radios for the park's rangers.

Together with a living history group, the Patuxents, The Friends of Fort Frederick has donated more than $40,000 in the past four years, Young said.

Fort Frederick was built when Maryland was a colony to defend its western frontier during the French and Indian War. The fort is considered the best preserved, pre-Revolutionary War stone fort in the country.

The park now contains 561 acres. The state Board of Public Works approved the additional 24-acre purchase Wednesday. Young said the sale won't be final until April.

Program Open Space has preserved more than 180,000 acres of land and recreation areas, according to DNR.

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