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State to pay half of price to save land

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A wooded 410-acre tract on Pasadena's Mountain Road peninsula - described as the single-largest piece of open space left between Annapolis and Baltimore - will be purchased and preserved, thanks to a $2.5 million state grant announced yesterday.

The purchase, if all goes as planned, would save from development an environmentally sensitive area that is considered the linchpin of a proposed 1,000-acre pristine stretch called the Magothy River Greenway.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening said the state will contribute $2.5 million in transportation funds to help buy most of the so-called Looper property on the congested peninsula. The purchase price is expected to total $5 million, with the balance from Project Open Space money that the state funnels to the county, Anne Arundel officials said.

Also yesterday, Glendening announced a $2.44 million grant to build a visitor center and museum at the historic London Town archaeological site in Edgewater.

"This is a huge win for Anne Arundel County citizens, because this funding helps us protect our environment and continue the vital effort of preserving our heritage," County Executive Janet S. Owens said.

The news about the Looper property thrilled preservationists. A year ago, they failed in their attempt to win a $7.6 million Rural Legacy grant to buy the land.

"We just kept on plugging," said Sally Horner, executive coordinator for the Magothy River Land Trust. "It's such a valuable piece of land that I felt we would have some success purchasing it."

Richard Ravenscroft, who lives near the Looper property, said he got involved in the effort to save the land two years ago when he learned that a 135-home subdivision was planned there.

The Mountain Road corridor is too congested to support more development, he said, and open land has been diminishing at an alarming rate.

"As the future goes on, it's going to be more of a premium," Ravenscroft said.

Nothing is final. Reached last night, Beverly G. Looper, whose husband's family bought the land in the 1930s, said she had no comment "because I'm not up to date." But she said she "very definitely" would like to see the land preserved.

Owens made a point to praise Del. Joan Cadden, a Brooklyn Park Democrat, for her efforts to secure funding for the Magothy River Greenway.

In a letter to Owens, Glendening said, "The Looper property acquisition is an important addition to the mitigation efforts along [Mountain Road] ... and is compatible with the state's water quality preservation efforts."

The idea of a Magothy River Greenway began taking shape about a year ago when the Magothy River Land Trust teamed with the Mountain Road Peninsula Preservation Committee.

Supporters hope to buy about 1,000 acres to create a buffer between the heavily developed western half of the Mountain Road corridor - defined by crowded schools and congested roads - and the largely unspoiled eastern half. Also targeted for preservation is Dobbins Island, a 5-acre island near the river's mouth.

The Looper land contains one of 10 fragile bogs on the Pasadena peninsula. Environmentalists call the area a "biodiversity hotspot." Besides filtering water on its way to the Chesapeake Bay, each bog is a separate ecosystem, home to rare plants and insects.

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