Although few details are available about Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal to trade park land in Western Maryland for federal property in Prince George’s County to make way for a new Washington Redskins stadium, the concept of a land exchange is not a new one.
If Hogan’s deal comes to fruition, Maryland would take over 300 acres of the federally owned Oxon Cove Park in Prince George’s County for a new stadium. In exchange, the state would relinquish parkland in Western Maryland to the federal government to expand Civil War battlefields.
Hogan did not reveal the actual site in Western Maryland the state would give up. A spokesman for the Department of the Interior said in an email the agency agreed to listen to the state’s ideas, but declined to comment specifically on the potential for a Redskins’ stadium deal because no finalized proposal has been made.
It is fairly common for the federal government to exchange lands with states, local governments and Native American tribes, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of the Interior said in an email. The government also exchanges land with private entities.
The transactions do not always occur on an acre-for-acre basis; stakeholders also consider factors such as monetary value, accessibility and proximity to other public or privately owned land, the Interior Department’s spokesman said.
“The Oxon Cove example is a bit of an anomaly — simply because we know very few details and no one seems to be able to get more details from the National Park Service — which is odd,” said Ani Kame’enui, legislative director for the National Parks Conservation Association, in an email.
Land exchanges are far more common in the western United States, where the majority of land in some states — nearly 80 percent of Nevada, for example — is federally owned.
In Maryland, 3.1 percent of the state’s land was owned by federal agencies in 2017, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Wedged between the Washington beltway and Interstate 295 on the Potomac River, Oxon Cove Park is part of the state’s federal land.
The park hosts a living farm on the site of a former plantation known as Mount Welby, which was established in the early 1800s by Dr. Samuel DeButts, an Irish immigrant. The federal government acquired the land in 1891 and put it to use as a therapeutic farm for the nearby St. Elizabeths Hospital, the nation’s first federal psychiatric hospital.
The property was passed to the National Park Service in 1959 “to protect its natural and cultural resources from the threat of increased urban development,” according to the park service.
The National Parks Conservation Association opposes any land swap, Kame’enui said in an email.