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State's plans to sell pond takes residents by surprise

November 16, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

When he was a youngster, Mark Fraley caught his first fish in Brownsville Pond off Md. 67 in the Brownsville community south of Boonsboro.

Fraley, 48, and some other area residents said they were surprised to learn that pond is now part of about 3,000 acres of land earmarked for sale by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, according to a published report in The (Baltimore) Sun.

The list of targeted land was compiled under the direction of Gov. Robert Erhlich following a land selection process conducted by Gene Piotrowski, DNR's resource planning director. Piotrowski was out of the office and not available for comment Monday, DNR spokeswoman Heather Lynch said.

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In Washington County, Brownsville Pond and seven parcels of land in South Mountain State Park were among the sites on the list reported by The Sun.

"The land chosen fits a select set of criteria and is the result of a 10-month review within the department," Lynch said.

She said Piotrowski was the only DNR representative who could comment about the criteria used to select more than 20 sites around the state and how the land would be sold.

A place where Fraley said most area youth caught their very first fish, Brownsville Pond sits a few feet off Md. 67 at the intersection of Brownsville and Boteler roads.

For the last decade, the pond has been maintained through a partnership between DNR and the Pleasant Valley Ruritan Club, said member Gary Himes. Himes owns Himes Country Store less than a mile from the pond.

"The pond was donated to the community by old Sara Brown in memory of her husband in the 1950s and we've helped install the picnic tables near the pond and we maintain the land," he said.

DNR stocks the pond with trout in the spring and Ruritans have sponsored a summer fishing rodeo for area youth for more than 10 years, Himes said.

Himes said that while he hates to see the public's access to the pond end if it's sold to a private owner, he's more concerned about the pond's role in area fire prevention.

"The Pleasant Valley Ruritan Club installed the area's first dry hydrant at the pond. It's a source of water for fires. That's a bigger concern for me," he said.

A dry fire hydrant is a non-pressurized pipe system installed near an existing pond or lake. It provides a suction supply of water to a fire department tank truck, according to a fire department Web site.

Shedding state land, Ehrlich says, allows the state to raise money, eliminate maintenance costs and restore land to the tax rolls.

Former Gov. Parris Glendening had a different policy, seeking to buy undeveloped land to combat sprawl.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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