Members of Relay Improvement Association are demanding that Patapsco Valley State Park and the communities of Relay and St. Denis be excluded from the proposed Patapsco Heritage Greenway, which has drawn criticism from residents worried that the project might hurt the environment.
In a letter to state and local officials yesterday, Darrell Story, president of the association, said the group is "strongly opposed to any tourism or other commercial development in our community."
The letter, sent to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, among others, demands that the park and communities not be part of the "certified heritage tourism area" that greenway planners hope to create.
And Doreen DeSa, secretary of Relay Improvement Association, said members of group voted against the project at a Mondaynight meeting because they see it as "an economic development plan as opposed to a historic preservation plan.
"We just feel that all of this is incongruous to what the park has always been about," said DeSa.
Proposals for the greenway, which is in its planning stages, have included a visitor center, a trail network, guided and self-guided tours of Elkridge, Ellicott City and Oella, historic interpretive signs in Relay and concessions in the state park.
John Slater, a Columbia landscape architect and chairman of the Patapsco Heritage Greenway Committee, said he would not try to stop Relay from withdrawing, but thinks better communication might solve some problems.
"We need to talk about it," he said. "Right now I don't think we're talking the same language. We're here to work together with Ellicott City, Oella, Relay and Elkridge to help preserve the valley."
Gerald Talbert, a Relay resident and environmental consultant who supports the greenway, said that he thinks the Relay association is "playing the environment card" because they don't want "faceless mobs" crowding the state park and their quiet, residential neighborhoods.
"It was a matter of exaggeration and hysteria," he said of the mood at Monday's meeting. "I'm afraid that what they are doing is excluding themselves from a wonderful opportunity."
Marcia McLaughlin, Howard County's deputy director of planning and zoning and a member of the greenway planning committee, said the committee is committed to working more closely with the involved communities.
She said the group has added two representatives each from Catonsville, Elkridge, Ellicott City, Oella and Relay to take part in the planning process.
"We will work through concerns they have expressed about the park," McLaughlin said. She added that "it's really unfortunate that the community process has not been direct face-to-face as much as it needs to be."
Pub Date: 1/28/99