The critical question about developing Black Marsh Wildlife Refuge is not so much why it should be done but rather why it shouldn't.
The 1,310 acres at the edge of Edgemere in Baltimore County, facing the Chesapeake, was described in the county's master plan as the finest area of tidal wetlands in the upper bay. Though part of the property was once an amusement park, the marsh is now much as it was in the primeval beginning. Bald eagles have been sighted there; the tangled marshland is home to three endangered plant species; various fish and birds inhabit the area.
Certainly the state needs to ensure that Marylanders have better access to this resource, and improving facilities like picnic areas, tours and trails certainly would be appropriate. But the Department of Natural Resource's plan to develop 20 acres of Black Marsh -- for a 350-seat amphitheater, parking lots, tot lots, boat tie-ups and a restaurant -- goes too far.
There are nagging environmental questions about this proposal -- whether construction run-off will end up in the bay, for instance, whether pesticides and chemicals could poison the food chain or whether crabs and birds and rockfish might be impacted by the roar of motor boats or a six-pack ring blithely tossed out by a visitor. More than that, though; once the land is developed it is irretrievable. With the vast majority of the bay's shoreline already build up, this project is decidedly out of sync with the state's professed commitment to protect the bay. The General Assembly should send the DNR back to the drawing board.