Wetlands park in Union Bridge Community joins state, environmental groups in restoring nature site.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

SOME FOLKS in Union Bridge are throwing their good works into a wet hole in the ground. Thankfully.

The western Carroll County community is developing a wetlands nature park on 37 acres of town land near Little Pipe Creek. More than a quarter-million dollars has been donated in grants from state and federal agencies.

Design services and technical assistance have been pledged by a number of government agencies and other organizations. Schools, businesses and individuals are being asked to help in the work to restore the wetland habitat, repair stream banks and develop interpretive nature trails at the site.

Students from Francis Scott Key High School are monitoring environmental conditions, as well as rebuilding the habitat. They are collecting aquatic organisms and testing water quality, learning about ecology while building a data base for future comparisons.

Meanwhile, volunteers from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and National Civilian Community Corps have surveyed the property and installed permanent testing and monitoring stations for future study.

The state Department of Natural Resources is helping to shepherd design work, with hopes of obtaining permits by spring in time for summer construction and fall tree planting. The DNR and Department of Environment have kicked in $182,000 toward the project.

But the town will assume a major responsibility for planning the natural park and in building it. The aim is for interested local business to bid on major work, to keep the economic benefits in the area and to minimize costs.

Union Bridge is organizing a volunteer planning group to steer the project. "We want the community to have ownership of it and to help plan it," said Jill Reichert of the DNR. It is the largest such community project undertaken by the state agency, and could become a model for similar wildlife projects in other places.

While there are concerns about flooding that could wash away the trails and erode stream banks, planners are optimistic that the project will succeed. Given the initial enthusiasm displayed in Union Bridge, community contributions should be generous for this town gift that will keep on giving through the years.

Pub Date: 1/20/97

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