Cromwell Valley plan envisions pastoral theme park


Cromwell Valley would have pastoral beauty in a parklike setting when all the parcels of land are acquired for the project, according to a concept being developed by Baltimore County and state officials.

An agricultural theme would govern development of the valley. Public activities would include hiking, hayrides, nature programs, camping, picnicking, a conference center, and musical and other performances.

"The trick is to use the valley without damaging it, and we know we can do it," said Wayne Harman, director of the county Recreation and Parks Department.

Existing buildings would be used for many activities. Construction would be kept to a minimum, he said.

The county is exploring using Loch Raven High School's parking area, which is on the southwest end of the valley, for activities in the valley.

"School activity would be at its lowest when park use is at its highest on weekends and evenings," Mr. Harman said. "We're looking at ways to get from the parking area into the valley.

"There are several ways we can handle road access and parking without damaging the valley or creating a nuisance," he said. "We'll have answers after we settle on a plan."

The Recreation and Parks Department is working with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and other state agencies to acquire the properties and make them useful to the public.

A community meeting will be held this month to get opinions on how best to use the valley.

Grant deHart, director of the state's Program Open Space, part of the Department of Natural Resources, said his department and the county are "working constructively" together to develop the valley.

"The final plan will have to go through several levels of state, county and community approval before it becomes reality," he said. "I hopewe're only talking a few months."

Paperwork for the acquisition of Satyr Hill Farm, the valley's 220-acre centerpiece, is nearly complete, Mr. Harman said. Public access probably will begin next month.

Negotiations between the county, state and owners of three other properties are continuing.

The properties are the 102-acre Sherwood farm, which is under a conservation easement and cannot be subdivided; the 137-acre Good Fellowship farm, 60 acres of which have been developed; and the seven-acre Jenifer property at the foot of Satyr Hill Road.

The state would hold title to the properties, and the county

would maintain and operate them under a long-term lease. User fees would provide the revenue to develop and maintain the valley.

The valley is seriously eroded by Linebank Run, which runs almost the entire length of the valley before emptying into the Gunpowder River and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay.

"We think we can use natural materials and solve that problem for about $100,000," Mr. Harman said, "and create a model erosion program that will help the bay."

But the major proposal for the valley concerns farming.

The current concept includes a working farm, with the latest and best farm practices, Mr. Harman said.

"There will be a tree farm, livestock and facilities so as to bring agricultural people to the valley to study the latest techniques. I think it will have a regional impact," he said.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer has supported acquiring the valley properties and emphasized his desire for model farming programs.

Plans also call for renovating homes and using them as conference and visitors' centers.

"Why would a local corporation go off and pay a fancy price at some conference center when it could come to Cromwell Valley and accomplish the same thing in a beautiful area for less money?" Mr. Harman said.

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