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State approves purchase of land for park County to maintain Morgan Run parcel


ANNAPOLIS -- After two years and many tries, open-space advocates got state approval to buy a critical piece of Carroll County land yesterday for Morgan Run State Park.

The state Board of Public Works voted yesterday to exercise its option to buy 27 acres along Morgan Run from Zeeger and Dorothy Lee "Dottie" De Wilde for $450,000.

"I'm absolutely delighted," said Torrey C. Brown, secretary of natural resources, in the State House after the vote. "I think it's a wise decision by the board, and it caps a long effort."

The issue has come up before the board several times over the past two years, but turned down because of lack of money to maintain or purchase the land. The key to its passage yesterday was a willingness by Carroll County to assume the maintenance, according to John P. Little, director of the county parks and recreation department.

Michael Nelson, deputy assistant secretary for public land in Mr. Brown's office, said, "This is the ideal matching of resources."

Mr. Little said the cost will be nominal for the county, because it will use mostly volunteers and existing equipment.

He attended the meeting of the board to attest the county's commitment.

The De Wilde property is important to the state for many reasons.

First, it connects two other strips of state-owned land along Morgan Run that total 1,300 acres. The state's long-term goal is to expand the park to 3,000 acres in the area as the existing owners decide to sell their individual parcels, Mr. Nelson said.

"There is a great deal of development around Morgan Run and Joe's Branch," Mr. Nelson said, and the state wants to buy the land before developers do.

Also, it has the buildings and greenhouses that can be used as a hub and conference area for the state park, Mr. Nelson said.

The De Wilde family operated the land as Greenway Gardens, an arboretum, for 16 years.

Mrs. De Wilde also attended the board meeting and smiled and shook Mr. Little's hand as the board voted to purchase her property.

She said the family decided to sell the land and arboretum because it had become a lot of work for them.

"We would like to see the arboretum continue and someone else preserve the land," she said.

The vote by the board was 2-0, with Comptroller Louis Goldstein abstaining from all open space purchase votes.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Lucille Maurer voted yes.

Mr. Goldstein said that with deep state cuts to programs such as human services and Medicaid, he could not support floating bonds for open space.

Governor Schaefer and Ms. Maurer, however, said the policy of the state has been to preserve open space for the future, and float bonds if necessary.

"We're at a crossroads," Governor Schaefer said. "Do we allow developers to move in and destroy the open space that's left? If we do, it's never recoverable."

One other Carroll County matter approved by the board yesterday was an exchange that removed the agricultural preservation easement from one 10-acre plot to another 10 acres, both owned by the Frock family. The change allows the Frocks to sell the original 10 acres to Alan Baugher, who already has part of an irrigation pond on the land.

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