Land dedicated to late conservationist


A high knob of land near the Magothy River will be a permanent memorial to a man who was known as a champion of conservation.

Kurrle's Knoll, a 2.45-acre tract in Arnold, has been donated to the Magothy River Trust by Walter Jacobs, a relative of Christian Kurrle.

Mr. Kurrle had been active in Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts until his death in September 1993.

"It's a payback. I've lived in the county all my life. I've had a good life here in this county," said Mr. Jacobs, a Chesapeake Bay ship pilot who lives in Cape St. John. The two men were related by marriage.

An easement prevents construction on the tract off Shore Acres Road near Arundel Drive. It will be marked by the plaque "Kurrle's Knoll."

The easement is believed to be the first in the county since the County Council passed a law this summer offering property tax exemptions for land in local conservation trusts, said Councilwoman Virginia R. Clagett of West River.

The land, which has a small concrete barn on it, is a former horse meadow that is becoming shrub-like and increasingly wooded. American holly and British soldier, a red-topped lichen, are on it. The land trust will let the site continue its return to a natural state.

"There is nothing unusual about it, but that doesn't take away from its value," said Sally Horner, a biologist who is the executive coordinator of the land trust.

Areas along the Magothy River are stopovers for migratory birds, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but as houses replace trees, the habitat that supports the waterfowl is vanishing.

"It's in an area that has been heavily developed," Dr. Horner said.

Mr. Kurrle was 75 when, after completing a presentation at a Magothy River Association meeting, he had a heart attack. The Severna Park resident died later. He was vice president of the organization when he died.

"He drummed up a lot of enthusiasm for the Magothy River," said Ted Connell, association president.

Mr. Kurrle, who had worked as an aerospace engineer for the Defense Department, also conducted long-term studies on pollution sources in the Magothy River and its tributaries.

For 40 years, Mr. Kurrle was a member of the Magothy River Association and an advocate of planting "oyster gardens" to help clean the water. A single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day.

Mrs. Clagett, sponsor of the county measure on the tax exemption, was excited about the donation. "Maybe this will be just the beginning. I can see why it would be valuable to have small parcels of land along the Magothy or along the Severn. It would be very worthwhile environmentally."

County officials estimated the government would lose less than $4,000 a year in taxes from the exemption because the typical small-parcel easement translates into a few hundred dollars.

The Maryland Environmental Trust grants state and local property tax forgiveness, but generally does not consider parcels of less than 25 acres. The county law sets no size requirement.

Dr. Horner said the easement was in the works before the county's tax exemption took effect but that the recent law was sparking interest among other property owners.

"We have about six other pieces of property that are in various stages" of preparation, Dr. Horner said. She said she hoped the easements could be donated within a year.

"We've been getting some calls," said Melvin Bender, president of the conservation group. "There are a lot of people who own land, don't want to build on it, don't want to sell it, and just feel more comfortable if it's in the natural state."

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