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Keeping greenway on track; Patapsco: Environmental concerns must be addressed in plan to enhance a key tourism area.


STEPS BEING taken to involve environmentalists in planning the proposed Patapsco Heritage Greenway are, unfortunately, late. Had efforts to reach environmental groups been made when discussions began four years ago, some of the criticism now confronting the proposal might have been allayed. That oversight, however, should not be fatal to a project that could greatly enhance the Patapsco River valley that binds Baltimore and Howard counties.

Critics of the proposal must keep in mind that no final decisions have been made. They should accept the invitation of the Patapsco Heritage Greenway Committee to work with it. Fears that economic development will outweigh quality-of-life concerns can be met by working together.

John Slater, chairman of the greenway committee, stresses that nothing is carved in stone. Among the ideas discussed so far is a network of trails in Patapsco State Park and a parking garage to serve historic Ellicott City. Mr. Slater said a proposal for a paved foot-path to connect the north and south ends of the park has been part of a master plan for 20 years.

The Maryland Conservation Council, an umbrella group that includes state chapters of the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, has raised legitimate concerns about the greenway's impact on the Patapsco River. Residents of Oella, Ellicott City, Elkridge, Relay, Catonsville and St. Denis don't want the character of their communities to be destroyed by development to increase tourism.

The project's proponents must convince critics that economic development will not occur at the expense of historic preservation or environmental protection. Improvements are indeed needed to further tourism in Ellicott City and Oella, home of the new Benjamin Banneker Museum. But the improvements must not do damage to life in the Patapsco River valley.

Pub Date: 2/09/99

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