Before Anita C. Leight died in 1983, she wanted to fulfill her husband's wishes and ensure that generations could appreciate acres of woods and shoreline along Otter Point Creek, as she and her husband and his family had for about 100 years.
She wanted the land to remain free of the intense development that was occurring all around it in Edgewood.
Now, her dream is coming true: Construction is to begin on the Anita C. Leight Estuary Center, a nature center and laboratory focusing on the environment of the upper Chesapeake Bay.
The center will house an auditorium, an exhibit room, a laboratory, offices and a small library. It will have a dual purpose: to foster ecological research and to educate the public about the efforts to restore the bay and its tributaries.
Construction of the 7,500-square-foot center begins this week. The $925,000 project, funded through local, state and federal sources, is expected to be completed next spring, according to the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
"They could have sold it many times over," W. Arnold Rosenberger, Mrs. Leight's brother, said of the property.
Instead, the Leight family conveyed the land where the center will be built to the Harford Department of Parks and Recreation.
The 61-acre tract known as Leight Park is part of the 672-acre Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve at Otter Point Creek, one of three sites established by the federal government in Maryland to provide areas for scientific research and to serve as outdoor classrooms for environmental education.
Clifton Leight, Mrs. Leight's husband, died in 1981. His mother lived there for 20 years, and the property had been in the family since the late 1800s.
"They really loved the site and they wanted to see it preserved in its natural state, without the development they were seeing all around," said Mary Ellen Dore, a DNR official.
She manages the three Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve sites in the state.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is providing $600,000 for the construction of the center at Leight Park. Harford County is contributing $200,000. The remaining $125,000 is expected to come from DNR's Program Open Space.