Preserving Black Marsh


The House of Delegates has an opportunity this week to support preservation of a valuable parcel of tidal marshland and also encourage archeological, educational and environmental activities. Passage of a bill declaring Black Marsh in Baltimore County a "Type 2 Wildland" would safeguard the fragile 150 acres against development. It would be a wise investment in Maryland's future -- and its past.

Six miles of the Black Marsh area, near Edgemere, lie near shoreline. The majority of the 1,310-acre tract is covered by woods, farmland and unmanaged fields. The farm area has been in continuous activity for nearly 350 years. Evidence of human occupation and use of Black Marsh dates back an astonishing 9,000 years. More recently, Black Marsh played a key role in the War of 1812, being the site of skirmishes between colonists and British troops attempting to invade Baltimore.

All of this is well worth preserving. Del. Connie Galiazzo's bill would ensure that the large bayside Black Marsh and a 517-acre buffer zone are protected against development (except for some observation decks). The bill would also change the name of the larger, surrounding parkland to North Point State Park to avoid confusion and to reflect the historic significance of the wooded area.

Preserving a marshland rich in biological diversity and yet close to a bustling metropolis is imperative. That is why the state purchased this tract from Bethlehem Steel in 1987 with help from the Nature Conservancy and Baltimore County.

Some area residents object to plans by an advisory panel to use the site of the old Bay Shore Amusement Park for public activities. We understand their alarm. So does the panel, which narrowed its proposal. The goal is to stress the park's educational value for school children; its recreational lure for hikers and pier fishermen; its agricultural asset as a working farm; and its historic ties to archeology, the War of 1812 and colonial farming. It would be primarily a learning center.

These plans are still preliminary. Nothing will be done to the parkland for several years. The panel's proposal should not be confused with Delegate Galiazzo's bill. The first step for supporters of Black Marsh is to gain General Assembly approval of the wildland-designation bill. Once that is achieved, Black Marsh's undisturbed future will be secure.

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