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County steps back, public moves ahead


OK, sportsmen and outdoors lovers, reach over your shoulders and give yourselves a pat on the back.

Your outpouring of support for Buz Meyer and his family stopped Anne Arundel County's land grab of a portion of their nature preserve, MeyerStation.

County officials last week said that they will withdraw their lawsuit against the Meyer family - the first step in condemnation proceedings - and have decided to find another route for their hiker-biker trail.

Anne Arundel eyed a two-mile stretch of abandoned railbed that cut through MeyerStation as a way to extend a paved bikeway from Prince George's County. When Meyer produced his family's 100-year-old deed to the railbed and balked at selling the land, the county brought in a lawyer to play hardball.

But you folks rallied, writing e-mails and making phone calls to the county's movers and shakers. And they heard you.

County Executive Janet Owens toured the 135-acre nature preserve, looked at alternate routes proposed by Meyer and promised to review the case. Her lieutenants said that while they wouldn't press forward with the lawsuit, they wouldn't drop it, either, because the ownership issue needed to be resolved by a third party.

Meyer and his lawyer were skeptical that the county would reverse course, noting that nearly $1 million in federal money for trail construction was in jeopardy if ownership was not resolved in Anne Arundel's favor.

On Thursday, Owens' chief of staff declared the legal challenge over.

"We are going to drop it," said Fred Schramm. "We were able to work with the Meyer family, and we're committed to that. That property serves a whole host of interests, as will the hiker-biker trail. We are committed to doing both."

This is terrific news for the thousands of birders, 4-H Clubs and school and church groups that have used MeyerStation for free, and for people who want to take the free state Hunter Safety Course offered by Meyer, a certified firearms instructor. It is good news for bikers, who have 24 miles of trail and will soon have more. Meyer, 70, is pretty happy, too.

"I'm excited," he said Friday. "I've been getting calls [of support] from as far away as Los Angeles. What a feeling it was to know all those people were behind us."

Go fish

ESPN, which bought the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society in April, will be showing off its acquisition next month when it televises same-day coverage of the BASS Masters Classic.

The New Orleans event Aug. 2-4 is often called the Super Bowl of professional bass fishing, where winning means a $100,000 payday.

ESPN2 will air coverage of the weigh-ins, provide live updates on the final day of fishing and produce a one-hour wrap-up show for Saturday night.

Lunker heads

Neither rain nor wind nor gloom of night could stop 91 hardy anglers from competing in the first "Lunar Lunker" tournament June 22 at Piney Run Park in Carroll County.

Rick Lawson, a park regular, proved that working from the shoreline is no obstacle when he landed a 3.46-pound largemouth bass, which held first place for most of the evening.

However, before the clock struck midnight, Joe Stillions caught a 3.47-pound bass. Even that proved to be insufficient once the Craig family of Sykesville arrived. The father-daughter-son team couldn't get to the park until the tournament was half over, but decided to give it a go.

It was a good thing they did. Teen-ager Jason Craig won $100 and a trophy for landing the largest bass, a 21-inch, 4.18-pounder. Jason's sister, Kinsey, caught several nice bass.

Welcome wagon

The Department of Natural Resouces is getting something most other state agencies already have: a chief of staff.

Karen White, a senior counselor to the governor and deputy chief of staff for the lieutenant governor, will be moving into the new job to manage the day-to-day stuff.

Department spokesman Chuck Porcari says White will free up Secretary Sarah Taylor-Rogers to work with lawmakers on the bigger picture and meet with the public on land preservation and resource restoration.

Line of fire

Wow. Based on the volume of response to last week's column, I'd have to say not everyone has gone on vacation.

For those of you who missed last week's prize-winning prose, let me quickly recap. Carolyn Watson is assistant secretary of DNR in charge of hunting and fishing. Many license-carrying sportsmen don't trust her, her boss (Taylor-Rogers), her boss' boss (Gov. Parris N. Glendening) or any of their policies. Some of them believe she has an anti-hunting and anti-trapping agenda.

Foolishly, I decided to let her have her say in this column so readers could judge her on her own statements and not the hand-me-down say-so of gossipers. It is the same courtesy that has been extended to the heads of the Maryland Sportsmen's Association, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Humane Society of the United States and employees fired by DNR honchos.

Well, you'd think from the response that I had allowed Albert Belle to take over the column.

Writers and voice mailers have questioned whether or not I am human, my sexual preference, my sanity, my backbone, my ideology.

Let me quickly answer, in order, those courageous people who left neither name nor phone number: human, none of your business, borderline, osteoporosis-prone, straight-ticket iconoclast.

Here's why Watson's comments appeared. Until eight months ago, I never heard of Carolyn Watson. Never saw her. Couldn't have picked her out of a police lineup.

Then all of the sudden, wham, her name was on the lips of many sportsmen and DNR field staff in less than complimentary terms. Watson, to put it in Top 40 terms, was No. 3 with a bullet (or without a bullet, if you believe she's anti-hunting). As a reporter, it made me wonder about her meteoric rise to unpopularity and how much power she wielded.

Two weeks ago, we agreed to meet. She spoke her piece and it appeared last Sunday. Now you know who she is and what she stands for. It's just that simple.

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