More land preserved near battlefield

September 18, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

The Maryland Board of Public Works permanently preserved a farm near Antietam National Battlefield on Wednesday, which coincidentally was the 141st anniversary of the bloody Civil War battle.

Although the 100-acre Sebold farm is four miles away from Antietam National Battlefield as the crow flies, its pristine scenery is part of what makes the park unique, Battlefield Superintendent John Howard said.

"The best way to describe it would be the background of the painting," Howard said. "You're not looking at apartment complexes, houses or a McDonald's. A scene like that would be very hard to find in other battlefields.


From almost anywhere on the battlefield, you can see South Mountain and the valley below it in the Keedysville area, he said.

A $242,319 grant through the state's Rural Legacy program is paying for the preservation easement, said Eric Seifarth, Washington County's farmland preservation coordinator.

The expense was approved Wednesday by the Board of Public Works, made up of the governor, the comptroller and the treasurer.

Randall Sebold, who owns the farm on Dog Street Road near Keedysville, could not be reached for comment.

The farm is steeped in history.

First settled in the 1730s, the farm has seen three wars: the French & Indian War, Revolutionary War and Civil War, according to the easement application.

A log cabin and original house, which still are standing, were built in the mid-1700s.

One of the farm's early residents, John Samuel Baker, fought in the Revolutionary War and served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. George Washington.

During the Civil War, it frequently was traveled by the armies of Northern Virginia and Southern Pennsylvania.

A quarter-mile of Dog Creek runs through the farm and will be buffered by trees to protect water quality, Seifarth said.

Within a three-mile radius of the farm, more than 8,000 acres are permanently protected.

Sebold farms the land, raising beef cattle and planting crops, Seifarth said.

Over the past three years, Washington County landowners have received $7 million in Rural Legacy grants, Seifarth said.

However, the program has been scaled back due to budget cuts and this year the entire state is competing for $5 million in grants.

"It's very competitive. We're just hoping for the best," he said.

Throughout the county, about 16,000 acres of private land have been protected through permanent easements, he said.

Another 28,000 acres are under a 10-year agricultural protection plan.

Also on Wednesday, the Board of Public Works approved a permanent easement for 54.5 acres of the Newcomer farm near Leitersburg.

A $161,782 grant from the Agricultural Land Preservation Program paid for the easement.

Other parts of the farm are in a 10-year program and this is the second parcel to get a permanent easement, he said.

"The easement programs have been very popular. We have a lot of people waiting to get in," Seifarth said.

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