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County receives $500,000 grant for preservation

Funds to buy permanent easements within Mid-Maryland Washington Rural Legacy Area

September 02, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS

Washington County has been approved for a $500,000 grant to preserve forest and farmland through Maryland's Rural Legacy Program, state officials announced this week.

The award is part of $12.6 million in Rural Legacy allocations approved Wednesday by the Board of Public Works, according to a press release from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The funds will be used to buy permanent easements preventing development of land within the Mid-Maryland Washington Rural Legacy Area, an area of about 40,000 acres around Antietam National Battlefield, said Eric Seifarth, Washington County's rural preservation administrator.

The specific land to be protected with this year's grant funds has not been determined, Seifarth said. At current easement prices, the $500,000 grant can be expected to preserve about 125 acres of land, or a little less than the size of an average farm, he said.

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This is the 13th year Washington County has received funds from the Rural Legacy Program, Seifarth said. To date, the county has received about $12 million through the program and protected about 4,200 acres, he said.

Seifarth said the county has a list of property owners within the Rural Legacy Area who are interested in the program, and their properties are ranked based on the number of development rights, soil quality, environmental benefits of preservation and historical significance of the property, he said.

The property or properties selected for preservation will have to be approved by the state, Seifarth said.

Meanwhile, Washington County still is working to finalize easements using last year's $1 million allocation of Rural Legacy funding, he said.

Seifarth said this year's $500,000 allocation is smaller than that of previous years, when the county has received as much as $1.8 million, but he was happy to get any preservation funding at all when budgets are so tight.

Also approved by the Board of Public Works Wednesday was $36,450 for Funkstown to renovate two existing tennis courts with a new surface, netting, fencing and lighting, according to a DNR press release.

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