Bill to develop Black Marsh park draws foes


An article in the Feb. 22 editions of The Sun incorrectly described legislation sponsored by Delegate Connie C. Galiazzo, Baltimore County, to rename the Black Marsh as North Point State Park.

The bill does not include proposals to develop a waterfront facility including a visitors center, education facilities, an amphitheater, a boating facility and other recreational areas. Those plans are being proposed by the state Department of Natural Resources.

ANNAPOLIS -- Proposed legislation to rename Baltimore County's Black Marsh park and develop visitor services and facilities on a 20-acre waterfront section of the pristine site received mixed reviews yesterday at a House Environmental Matters Committee hearing.

All of the dozens of people who testified approved of renaming the 1,310-acre marshland North Point State Park, in honor of the Battle of North Point fought in the area by local defenders against the British in 1814.

But many objected to any development included in the bill drafted by the state Department of Natural Resources and a 15-member citizen advisory group. It calls for construction of a visitor's center, education facilities, picnic areas, observation platforms, a 350-seat amphitheater, day boating facility and other recreational areas.

The changes would be made on the 20-acre portion that formerly was occupied by the old Bayshore Amusement Park on the tip of the North Point peninsula. Opponents expressed fears that development would harm endangered plants and wildlife.

The development proposal also calls for improvements to help maintain centuries-old farms and hiking trails that state officials say are valuable archaeological sites for study.

But Lynn Jordan, a member of the Coalition to Preserve Black Marsh, which opposes the bill, told committee members: "We don't want to just preserve the marsh; we want to protect the whole property."

Ms. Jordan said the bill did not go far enough to protect the park's critical areas and the endangered plant and animal life -- including a pair of bald eagles -- that was thriving in the undeveloped park.

Even the slightest development for a tiny parking area could do irreparable damage to the marsh's fragile ecosystem, said Attica Davis, a community resident and preservation coalition member. The best we can do may not be enough to preserve Black Marsh. But what is planned by DNR is not enough to protect it."

Polly Wirth, another coalition member, urged the committee to ,, reject the proposal and instead pass legislation to reforest the entire park area, leaving only a few rough trails.

"These artificial additions are not necessary to attract the public to the park. The park's rich natural, historical and archaeological features are sufficient to serve the public's needs," she said. "Let people see nature as it is, where the woods meet the bay."

Those who favored redeveloping the marsh said the new attractions would increase appreciation for natural parkland and teach children the value of preservation.

"You just can't build barriers around a park and protect it from people; you protect it for people," said Delegate Connie C. Galiazzo, D-Baltimore County, who represents the area and sponsored the legislation, HB 596.

"I'd like all the kids from Baltimore City who see nothing but sidewalks and buildings to come down and see this. . . . You've just got to see it to appreciate it," she said.

Committee members have been inundated with letters opposing the plan, but many seemed impressed with it yesterday. One of them, Delegate Kenneth D. Schisler, R-Talbot, likened the development proposal to a "misunderstood monster."

Dr. Torrey C. Brown, natural resources secretary, was among the half-dozen state and county officials who spoke in favor developing the marsh. He said the bill included regulations to create a buffer around the fragile marshland.

"It's an absolutely fabulous plan," he said of the plan to redevelop the property purchased by the state in 1987 from the Bethlehem Steel Corp. for $5.3 million.

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