Fertile field for the future

THE BALTIMORE SUN

AMID THE EXCITEMENT over plans to develop the 105-acre Gesell farm for agricultural education and events, a word of caution is advised. Actually, two words: money and neighbors.

These concerns should be apparent after the messy, prolonged effort to expand the adjacent Carroll County Agricultural Center, a project that is still unbuilt. That was a seemingly desirable project that initially ignored legitimate concerns of neighbors, physical limitations of the property and realistic costs. With full funding of the $3.4 million expansion still uncertain, site work on the center is finally to begin this fall.

Acquisition last year of the Gesell farm, located between the Ag Center and the County Farm Museum just south of Westminster, was a worthwhile investment for the county.

The valuable land will be protected from housing development. It opens opportunities for the two existing facilities that celebrate Carroll's farm heritage.

In the short term, it offers solutions to persistent traffic problems for popular events, such as the 4-H Fair, the Maryland Wine Festival and the Fourth of July celebration.

A new system of four roads will connect the museum and center, providing direct access to Route 27 and alleviating congestion on Smith Avenue and Center Street in the city. The open fields will also be used for badly needed parking.

Other plans developed by a steering committee and architectural consultants include a community center, amphitheater, two riding rings and lighted pavilions. The expectation is that many of these facilities will pay for themselves through exhibitions and rental fees.

The plan is for long-term development of the proposed features, over 25 years. That's important, because full public input and careful funding decisions are necessary to make this project a success.

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