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Maryland awards more than $200,000 in grants to Patapsco area nonprofits

The Maryland Heritage Areas Authority last week announced matching grants of more than $216,000 for three regional nonprofits.

The grants fund three projects in the Patapsco Valley Heritage Area, according to a news release dated July 15. They are a Mobile Interpretive Park Center, a $50,000 project from the Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park; a 250th anniversary video project for Ellicott City from the Patapsco Heritage Greenway for $15,000; and a $8,500 project for the Ellicott City Partnership for “Finding Your Way in Ellicott City.”

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Patapsco Heritage Greenway also received a $100,000 management grant, a $25,000 block grant and a $17,500 marketing grant.

Patapsco Heritage Greenway said the money from the marketing grant will be put toward bringing in tourists, and the block grant will be turned into “mini-grants” that the organization distributes to heritage area partners.

Dave Ferraro, executive director of the Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park, said the Mobile Interpretive Park Center is a fancy way of describing a van that will be staffed by park rangers or volunteers to interact with park visitors whose native language is not English, with a focus on the area’s growing Spanish-speaking population.

“We’re excited about it, and we’re really happy that the state is excited about it, too.” Ferraro said. “We want to serve this community.”

Ferraro said he’s noticed the population of Spanish speakers using the park really start to grow within the past three or four years. The van, which Ferraro said he expected to be “ready to roll” by the end of the year, will be wrapped in a parks-related decal and be a sort of “mobile headquarters.”

“We want to have this vehicle be able to go anywhere in the park, and go to these folks in the park, and be able to talk to them about the park,” Ferraro said. Topics could include telling folks how they can get involved in park-related activities, informing visitors how they can volunteer or, as necessary, reminding guests of park rules and etiquette.

Lindsey Baker, executive director of the Patapsco Heritage Greenway, said the grants are “fundamental” to the organization’s mission of supporting smaller partner groups in the region. The grants allow the group to fund its operating expenses, professional development and trail workshops, and other activities like its annual PaSNAPSco photo contest.

“The grants are meant to make sure that we are doing the best we can to raise our partners, and promote the area,” she said.

Though not rewarded, two projects were recognized by the Heritage Areas Authority that could be funded with matching grants later in the year. One is a signage program for the Community College of Baltimore County, aimed at educating visitors; the other is a trail work series from the Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park.

During the summer months, and especially on weekends, areas of the park do fill to capacity and have to temporarily close to additional visitors. The park is open from 9 a.m. to sunset.

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