Letters to the Editor

The Baltimore Sun

Environmental focus urged for Blandair

Howard County could make a major statement of its commitment to environmental wellness by scrapping its design for a regional park at the Smith farm (Blandair Park), instead designating the site for a nature park and center for environmental education.

Wellness is a concept, I believe, that applies to society as well as individuals and challenges us to consider many facets of our lives, including how well we are emotionally, intellectually, socially, spiritually, vocationally, multiculturally, environmentally, as well as physically.

Howard County is fortunate to be strong in many of these areas. In my view, the county is weakest in its appreciation of how to live in harmony with nature in order to preserve our environment for future generations. With the existing development pressures in Howard County, the impending BRAC expansion and the challenges of global warming, it is critical that we take dramatic action now.

Imagine, if you will, a children's garden that is unique in Maryland, providing toddlers with a kind of Exploraworld in nature. Or a residential complex that provides our elementary and middle school students with an opportunity for a weeklong structured program that teaches them to appreciate and care for our natural environment. Howard is the only county in Maryland to not have such an environmental education center.

Envision, as an outgrowth of this, a sort of Civilian Conservation Corps of kids that fan out from the park onto the adjoining Columbia and Howard County trails to monitor our ecosystem. Or picture an area devoted to youth and community gardens that enable our high school kids to plant grasses for replenishment of our bay or demonstrate the cultivation of medicinal herbs.

All of this and more is possible by making this 300-acre property in the center of Columbia and Howard County a centerpiece of progressive environmental policies rather than merely a utility that is developed to service a myriad of interests. The natural assets of the property, including forest and pastures, wetlands, two farm ponds and diverse flora and fauna, make it a perfect setting for a nature park, and the ecosystem complements the Howard County Conservancy's property (farm) and the Robinson Center (stream and woodland).

The Thunder Hill Park Alliance has done significant work to develop the concept of the Smith farm as a nature park. Using the services of an internationally known landscape designer, the Alliance has developed a plan that emphasizes preservation of the natural environment and interaction with nature.

The plan takes into account the unique character of the property and the need to preserve and protect it. I urge the county to replace the current plans with a design competition to create a world-class nature park and center for environmental education.

Harry Schwarz Columbia

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