Rural Legacy grant OK'd; State board approves money for 300 acres of Lothian open space; Smart Growth effort; Preservation program also adds 9,090 acres of farmland


The state Board of Public Works approved a $1.2 million Rural Legacy grant yesterday for southern Anne Arundel County.

The state Rural Legacy Board had approved the project last month.

The grant will be used to acquire easements on about 300 acres of privately owned land near Lothian, said H. Grant Dehart, director of Program Open Space for the state Department of Natural Resources.

The Board of Public Works also designated 9,090 acres of farmland in South County as a Rural Legacy area.

"It's to keep the land the way it is," Dehart said.

The farmland, bordered by the Patuxent River, Polling House Road, Solomons Island Road, Owensville Road, Muddy Creek Road, Bayard Road and Nutwell Road, is in the heart of the county's agricultural preservation district. The land is dotted with rural villages and historic sites.

The grant was one of 19 approved by the Board of Public Works, totaling $25 million for fiscal 2000. The board also designated six new Rural Legacy areas, including Long Green Valley and Gunpowder Falls in Baltimore County, and expanded one.

The Rural Legacy Program, part of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation Initiative, was signed into law May 22, 1997. The competitive program encourages local governments and private land trusts to apply for state funding to complement land-conservation efforts or create them.

The program will spend $70 million to $140 million to preserve more than 50,000 acres of the state's farms, forests and open spaces in the next five years. Funding will come from Maryland Program Open Space and bonds under the state's capital budget.

Anne Arundel County officials will negotiate easements with the Lothian property owners, Dehart said. They will then present the contracts to the Board of Public Works for final approval.

The South County project beat out another county effort to preserve environmentally sensitive land. Supporters of the Magothy River Greenway had applied for $7.6 million to purchase a swath of land in the river's watershed, including North Gray's Bog.

The group wanted to create a greenway along the north shore of the Magothy River to save almost 1,000 acres of undeveloped land.

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