Anne Arundel County officials got mixed news at the state Board of Public Works meeting yesterday in Annapolis. They received $1.1 million to preserve a horse farm in West River but failed to win support to expand a park in Harmans.
County officials said they were thrilled to receive state Rural Legacy funds to protect the 179-acre Leatherbury Farm. The farm is home to the stables of the nation's third most-winning horse trainer, who asked that he not be named.
"I cannot express how excited I am that we have been able to preserve this beautiful horse farm," said County Executive Janet S. Owens. "This preservation provides a solid block of protected land that stretches from Route 255 in Owensville nearly down to Route 258 in Deale."
However, parks officials suffered a temporary setback in their bid to win $139,000 in state funds to add roughly 15 acres to a park on Teague Road in Harmans.
Harmans Park is home to Cannon Stadium, a 1,600-seat ball park that hosts many high school and college baseball tournaments.
The park lacks walking trails and youth baseball fields, but county officials want to change that. They are assembling 15 acres near the park so that they can add such amenities, said Jack Keene, chief of planning and construction for the Department of Recreation and Parks.
County officials recently purchased a 14-acre parcel for $555,000 and are in negotiations to buy an acre parcel. Both properties are near the existing park.
The smaller parcel is in the middle of the larger parcel and includes a 19th-century farmhouse. The price of the smaller property, $225,000, and the future of the old farmhouse were the subjects of some debate by Board of Public Works members yesterday.
Comptroller William Donald Schaefer questioned Keene's assertion that the county would carefully weigh the fate of the old house, which is in "fair to good" condition.
"Your motivation is to tear it down," Schaefer told Keene.
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. joined in, asking Keene: "What is the purpose of this acquisition?"
"Community-oriented recreation features," Keene said.
Ehrlich said keeping the house would be at odds with that purchase.
"The comptroller's suspicion is probably correct," Ehrlich said, implying that the house would probably be torn down. He asked that the item be withdrawn from the board's agenda.
Keene said yesterday that the county will bring the project back to the board at a future meeting. He said he doubted the owners of the farmhouse parcel would lower the price given the popularity of the area, which is near Arundel Mills.
Keene said his staff will investigate the history of the farm house, which until only recently was inhabited, before their next meeting with Schaefer and Ehrlich.