Cecil Acquires New Park Land

Cecil County is using Program Open Space funding to get a new park.

On Thursday, the County announced that it has signed a settlement agreement to take possession of the former Bittersweet Golf Course, located on Route 213, south of Elkton. The property was acquired through Maryland’s Program Open Space, which allocated $933,000 to Cecil County to take ownership and develop the land into a recreational park.

In the coming months, the Cecil County Department of Parks and Recreation will work to solicit public input and develop a portion of the 121-acre property into a walking park, along with other amenities.

County Executive Alan McCarthy stated:

We are very grateful and pleased to able to settle on this property through Program Open Space funding. The park will provide leisure and recreational activities for Cecil County residents and visitors. I am confident that our staff will maintain it and it will be a wonderful amenity for the community.

Read the full release here.

MACo Argues for County Choice on Using Synthetic Turf

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in opposition to legislation against the use of synthetic turf fields before the House Appropriations Committee on February 8, 2018. The bill, HB 505, was sponsored by Delegate Aruna Miller.

HB 505 would require the state or local unit that is constructing a playground or athletic field to give a preference, to the maximum extent practicable, to natural surface materials if state funds are involved. The bill would also prohibit the use of state funds to build a new or replacement playground or athletic field with a synthetic surface.

Knapp cited the many benefits that synthetic turf fields can provide, their importance to county recreational programs, and the lack of research conclusively showing that the fields pose a health or safety risk. From MACo’s testimony:

Artificial and synthetic turf fields provide many recreational benefits over regular turf. The Maryland Association of County Park and Recreation Administrators (MACPRA) conservatively estimates that more than 3.5 million individuals play on artificial or synthetic turf fields in Maryland every year. They further report that research has shown that the fields do not increase the risk of injuries or cause other health concerns. The fields reduce exposure to pesticides and herbicides and allow for greater use than regular turf fields.

Restricting or discouraging the use of synthetic and turf fields would place an unnecessary hardship on already limited local funds. The General Assembly has considered and rejected synthetic turf bans or prohibitions nearly every year for the last five or six years.

MACo fully supports ongoing research into the safety of synthetic turf fields. As the bill’s fiscal note indicates, there is a comprehensive and ongoing multi-agency federal research action plan (FRAP) that is studying the potential health effects of the fields. Announced in January of 2016, the FRAP includes the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It would be premature to consider any action regarding the use of POS or other state funding for synthetic turf fields while this research is underway.

MACPRA President and Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks Director Rick Anthony joined Knapp in opposing the bill. Anthony testified that county parks and recreation departments are professionally run and track issues regarding both natural turf and synthetic turf fields closely and that counties should be allowed to choose which fields work best for them. Both Knapp and Anthony stated that if the federal research conclusively shows that synthetic turf fields pose a health threat, counties would obviously respond.

The Maryland Sierra Club, State Healthy Playing Fields Coalition, Montgomery County Civic Federation, Montgomery County Green Democrats, and the Patient Consumer Public Health Coalition testified in support of the bill.

SB 763 is the cross-file to HB 505 and is set to be heard by Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on March 7.

Useful Links

HB 505 of 2018

MACo Testimony on HB 505

Delegate Aruna Miller Webpage

WTOP News Article on HB 505 Hearing (2018-02-10)

Governor’s FY 2019 Budget Includes $8 Million for Garrett County Parks Projects

A Garrett County Republican article (2018-02-01) reported that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has included more than $8 million in his FY 2019 budget for state and local park projects in Garrett County. This included $33,000 funding for upgrades to the Friendsville Community Park and $20,000 in funding for Town Park West in Accident. The funding would be provided through the Community Parks and Playgrounds Program.  From the article:

“We are very grateful and appreciative to Gov. Hogan for proposing to fully fund our request, which includes these very worthwhile projects in our community park,” [Friendsville Mayor Spencer Schlosnagle] said. “We take great pride in our park, as it is very beneficial to the many people and groups around the town and the tri-state area who visit and enjoy its many outdoor activities.”

The article also listed the funding proposed for various State parks located in Garrett County that totals $8.03 million.

Environmentalists Unveil 2018 Session Priorities

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters (MDLCV) hosted its annual event on November 13, 2017, where the environmental community unveiled their legislative priorities for the 2018 Session. Increasing the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and strengthening the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) were among several priorities highlighted during the event.

Forest Conservation Act

A MDLCV representative discussed pending legislation that create additional FCA protections for large contiguous tracts of older forest. The representative stressed that growth should be focused in areas that have already been developed and limit growth “out in the boondocks.”

Renewable Portfolio Standard

A MDLCV representative discussed the initiative to increase the RPS so that 50% of Maryland’s energy comes from renewable sources by 2030. The proposed bill would remove waste to energy plants from the RPS and also channel money towards renewable energy jobs training. The training funding would be targeted towards small businesses and minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses.

Program Open Space

A Preservation Maryland representative recounted that over $1 billion has been taken from Program Open Space (POS) and that 2016 legislation was passed to repay a small portion of that amount and make it harder to raid POS funding in future years. The environmental community will support the funding of POS according to the 2016 legislation and oppose any proposed raids of the funding.

Styrofoam Ban

A representative from Trash Free Maryland stated that an environmental coalition plans on pushing legislation that would ban Styrofoam food packaging and shipping “peanuts” in Maryland. The representative noted that: (1) Styrofoam does not degrade but instead breaks down into smaller pieces that enter both the animal and human food chains; and (2) when heated, such as in a microwave, Styrofoam releases styrene, which is a known carcinogen. The legislation will be sponsored by Delegate Brooke Lierman and Senator Cheryl Kagan.

Pesticide Ban

A representative from MDLCV discussed planned legislation that would ban the use of pesticides containing chlorophenols. The representative stated that the United States Environmental Protection Agency was set to ban its usage until the election of President Donald Trump and that it is already banned for residential usage. The proposed legislation would ban it in agricultural uses.

Public Service Commission Transparency

A MDLCV representative unveiled an initiative that would require the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) to provide additional notice and transparency to communities that could be affected by the siting of utility scale energy projects. The proposed legislation would also require the PSC to look at the potential health effects a proposed energy project would have on nearby communities.

Historic Tax Credit

A representative from Preservation Maryland discussed legislation that would increase funding for the Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Credit, which currently provides about $9 million in tax breaks to qualifying historic rehabilitation projects. The representative noted that a similar Virginia credit provides about $100 million in relief and that the legislation would step up Maryland’s credit, going to $14.5 million for FY 2019.

State Historical Trust

The Preservation Maryland representative also spoke about legislation that would restore funding to several programs under the State Historical Trust within the Maryland Department of Planning, including: (1) the Trust’s capital grant program; (2) the survey and research grant program; and (3) the museum assistance fund.

Make Your Special Event Successful at #MACoCon

Go for the gold! Learn how to navigate the many local and state regulatory requirements so that you can bring a popular (and profitable) special event to your county at the 2017 MACo Winter Conference.

Let’s Get This Party Started…Wait. I Need a Permit For What?!


Special events – whether cultural festivals, sports competitions, or celebratory gatherings – can bring economic and quality of life benefits to counties and their residents. However, behind every event there is a host of safety, health, and environmental concerns that must be addressed before an event can be successfully held. While some safety requirements are strictly dictated by law or regulation, other requirements allow regulators some flexibility in working with event holders. Panelists will discuss the basic requirements for holding special events and provide examples of the “give and take” process that sometimes occurs between regulators and event holders to allow an event to occur while still ensuring proper protections are in place.


  • Robert Mitchell, Jr., Director, Department of Environmental Programs, Worcester County
  • Laura Wetherald, Bureau Chief of Recreation and Administrative Services, Howard County
  • Colleen Joseph, Chief of Marketing, Events and Facilities, Anne Arundel County

Date & Time: Thursday, December 7, 2017, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Learn more about MACo’s 2017 Winter Conference:

MACo Urges Caution on Changing Program Open Space Land Acquisition Formula

MACo representatives testified before the Joint Subcommittee on Program Open Space and Agricultural Land Preservation on November 8, 2017, urging caution against legislatively changing the land acquisition formula used in the local Program Open Space (POS) program. SB 116 of 2017 required the Joint Subcommittee to review the local POS land acquisition standard of 30 acres per 1,000 population and report back to the House and Senate environment committees on whether the standard should be adjusted “to encourage the additional acquisition of land.” The Joint Committee also heard from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regarding the land acquisition standard.

DNR Deputy Secretary Joanne Throwe described how DNR had adopted an alternative methodology to the 30 acres per 1,000 goal and how counties were implementing this methodology as part of their current round of Local Land Preservation, Parks, and Recreation Plan (LPPRP). From DNR’s written testimony to the Joint Subcommittee:

POS Local is a reimbursable grant program administered by DNR’s Land Acquisition and Planning Unit. To be eligible for funding, counties must submit a [LPPRP] every five  years. LPPRPs are an important resource by which county governments and the City of Baltimore evaluate key issues, trends and plans for managing and enhancing the systems of preserved public lands, parks and recreation facilities in their jurisdictions. …

Historically in Maryland, a county’s land acquisition goal in the LPPRP was determined based only on a single state default metric of 30 acres of open space per 1,000 residents (counties could use another standard with the approval of [the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP)] and DNR). This metric was used to determine whether a County had met the land acquisition goal, which enables them to use a greater percentage of their annual funding on recreational development projects. …

Based on input from DNR, MDP, and the local jurisdictions, it was determined that a much more tangible analytical methodology capable of considering multiple factors (user demand, population density, and land and facility distribution) was a better approach [for the 2017 LPPRPs]. By analyzing and mapping a county’s parks and recreation inventory of existing land and facilities in relation to population density and taking into consideration the known needs and demands of users (as determined via surveys, participation rate figures, public input, etc.) a more accurate determination of deficiencies in service can be made and better plans formulated to address them, versus the past reliance on the 30-acres-per=1,000 residents, single acres/population metric.

Throwe maintained that because many counties were still completing their LPPRPs under the new methodology, it was premature for the Joint Subcommittee to recommend any changes to the land acquisition formula.

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp and Howard County Parks and Recreation Director John Byrd essentially concurred with DNR’s position. Knapp and Byrd stated that local POS was composed of two equally valid components: (1) land acquisition; and (2) facilities development and maintenance. Both MACo and county parks and recreation directors have viewed the 30 acres per 1,000 residents standard as a somewhat arbitrary “one-size-fits-all” approach and support a different standard that provides greater county flexibility.

Knapp and Byrd cautioned the Joint Subcommittee against making a recommendation for the 2018 Session (SB 116 allows them to submit a recommendation by October 31 of 2018) in light of the ongoing LPPRP process with the new methodology. Knapp indicated that once the full ramifications of the new methodology could be measured, MACo’s position could change.

Economic Boon: Cecil Hosts 10,000 Visitors for Weekend Lacrosse Tourneys

Cecil County’s Calvert Regional Park was abuzz last weekend. With back-to-back lacrosse tournaments scheduled on Saturday and Sunday, the recreational facility, managed by Cecil County Parks and Recreation, welcomed more than 10,000 players and fans and over 100 teams to the area.

Most local officials know about the positive physical and mental health benefits parks and recreational facilities provide. But you may not be aware of how properly developed and advertised facilities can support jobs and bring in revenue.

According to a press release:

Prime Time Girls Lacrosse, featuring 82 teams from California, Florida, Ohio, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania and the Delmarva region, utilized 11 of the 12 available fields at Calvert Park throughout the day on Saturday. Seven thousand athletes and spectators poured into the facility with the tournament bringing in an estimated $9,000 to the general fund.

Calvert Regional Park in Cecil County (Photo Courtesy: Cecil County)

Calvert Park hosted a 30-team tourney from Top of the Bay Lacrosse, based out of Churchville, Maryland, on Sunday. This event brought in 3,000 visitors from the area including teams from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland and contributed another $8,700.

“Although exhausting, it was very exciting to bring athletes and their families from all of these states together at Calvert Regional Park. The magnitude of large tournaments like these plays a huge part in putting Cecil County on the map,” explained Clyde Van Dyke, Director of Cecil County Parks and Recreation.

“With more than 10,000 people visiting this weekend, staying in our hotels, dining in our restaurants and shopping in our stores, plus the vendors that we had at the fields, it was just an all-around good weekend for parks and recreation, tourism and our local economy,” Van Dyke added.

Read the full press release for more information.

MACo’s Winter Conference will feature a session on special events and the multi-layered process that ensures an event not only runs well, but also satisfies safety, health, and environmental concerns. Let’s Get This Party Started…Wait. I Need a Permit For What?!” is scheduled for Thursday, December 7, from 2pm – 3 pm. See our registration brochure for more details about this and other sessions.

Learn more about MACo’s 2017 Winter Conference:

Governor Hogan Announces Outdoor Recreational Economic Commission

A Governor’s Office press release (2017-10-14) announced the formation of a new Maryland Outdoor Recreational Economic Commission (MORE). MORE was created through Executive Order 01.01.2017.24. From the press release:

This commission will be responsible for developing strategies and making recommendations to the governor to strengthen the state’s outdoor recreation industry and help ensure increased investment in our state’s outdoor recreation resources.

“Maryland is abundant with natural, cultural, historical, and recreational resources that contribute significantly to our economy and quality of life,” said Governor [Larry] Hogan. “This commission will help ensure that our state’s natural heritage is strengthened, bringing new businesses, increased tourism, and ultimately preserving our resources for future generations.”

The outdoor recreation economy in Maryland already generates 109,000 direct jobs, $14 billion in consumer spending, $4.4 billion in wages and salaries, and $951 million in state and local tax revenue. Investment in outdoor recreation and nature and heritage tourism economies support many outdoor activities in Maryland, including hiking, biking, horse-back riding, paddling, boating, fishing, hunting, camping, swimming, wildlife-viewing, and visiting historic sites.

As part of their work, the commission will develop innovative strategies to market Maryland’s unique outdoor and heritage recreation brand, as well as recommend initiatives to grow and attract new companies. Additionally, the commission will explore ways to retain and support Maryland’s existing outdoor recreation businesses.

The commission will be co-chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources Mark Belton and the Secretary of the Department of Commerce Mike Gill and comprised of seventeen members appointed by the co-chairs with the approval of the governor. Members will include representatives of companies within Maryland’s outdoor recreation manufacturing and retail industry; representatives of companies representing small business outdoor or heritage recreation service providers; nonprofit organizations; representatives of gateway cities, towns, or communities; and legislative members.

The commission will provide a final report to the governor by December 1, 2019.

Useful Links

Executive Order 01.01.2017.24

Board of Public Works Approves $23 Million In Rural Legacy Grants

The Board of Public Works unanimously adopted a Maryland Department of Natural Resources recommendation approving 17 Rural Legacy Program grants – totaling over $23 million. Funding from these grants will permanently protect over 6,500 acres of working farms, forests and open space in 18 counties.

According to a press release:

The projects include protecting productive farmland, natural habitat, scenic view sheds, shorelines, wetlands, and woodlands as well as cultural, historical, and natural resources.

Established in 1997, the Rural Legacy Program is designed to preserve large tracts of productive and valuable agricultural and forested lands that contain exceptional features. The program acts through local government or private land trust sponsors to purchase conservation easements from willing property owners in 31 locally-designated rural areas located in every county. To date, the program has permanently protected 91,398 acres.

Here is a listing of Rural Legacy Program grants (alphabetically by area):

Read the full press release for more information.

“This Land is Your Land” Bus Tour Highlights Role of Program Open Space

Partners for Open Space and the Rural Maryland Council is hosting a series of bus tours called “This Land is Your Land” across the state to highlight the importance and impact of the Program Open Space. The tours are open to county officials and are free, but registration is required.


Southern Maryland Tour (2017-09-28)

Time: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Starting Point: Lawyers Mall, Annapolis, MD 21401

Register for Southern Maryland Tour

From the registration webpage:

Join us on the bus at Lawyers Mall at 10:00 am, and then sit back and enjoy a glimpse of preserved lands, parklands, and riverfront. We will travel down to the American Chestnut Land Trust, a Trust that has been caring for the land in a remarkable partnership with landowners and communities since 1986. From the Trust’s site on Parker’s Creek and Governor’s Run, we will cross the Patuxent River to beautiful Serenity Farm (site of early Native American settlements, John Smith’s Patuxent Journey, an early Colonial village, the British landing during the War of 1812, and much more!).

On the Farm, we will enjoy the bounty of the region, including locally sourced seafood, wine, and beer. Chat with noted historians and local agricultural innovators, discuss upcoming events with regional museum leaders, and visit an historic African American graveyard to hear the compelling tale of its discovery.

If you cannot make the bus tour but would still like to meet us for lunch, please let us know by registering for the lunch only option!

From Serenity Farm we will make our way back to Annapolis on the old roads, venturing into the Patuxent River Park at Jug Bay, and past preserved farmland and fields that have been worked since the beginning of Maryland. We return to Annapolis at 4:00 pm.

We look forward to seeing you! For more information contact Lucille Walker at 301-343-2771 or email lwalker@tccsmd.org.


Central Maryland Tour (2017-09-29)

Time: 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Starting Point: Friends of Orianda House, 1901 Eagle Drive, Baltimore, MD 21207

Register for Central Maryland Tour

From the registration webpage:

This tour begins at Leakin Park, one of the largest urban Greenspaces in the US. Tour the Orianda Mansion and adjacent chapel and learn about Program Open Space’s role in protecting these historic buildings and the outdoor education programs available in the park.

From there we will travel to Jerusalem Mills, an historic village located in Gunpowder State Park, the second most visited park in Maryland. Our tour then turns to productive agricultural land passing through vegetable farms, nurseries, and grain farms. We will stop at an historic Merryland Farm and see thoroughbred horses work out on a premier training track. Enjoy lunch at Boordy Vineyards to include produce from local farms, and some delicious Priegels Ice Cream.

If you cannot make the bus tour but would still like to meet us for lunch, please let us know by registering for the lunch only option!

We will return to Leakin Park by 3:30 pm.

For more information contact Ann Jones at 443-690-8420, or email ann@partnersforopenspace.org.


Eastern Shore Tour (2017-10-13)

Time: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Starting Point: Lawyers Mall, Annapolis, MD 21401

Register for Eastern Shore Tour

From the registration webpage:

The “This Land is Your Land” Bus Tour of the Eastern Shore is Friday, October 13, 2017 and will leave from Lawyers Mall in Annapolis, MD.

Visit the brand new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, hear how Program Open Space has helped a Easton Farmer become the President of the U.S. Wheat Association, visit a local winery that is possible in part thanks to Maryland Agricultural Land Foundation funds, and hear about what will be Maryland’s newest State Park. Lunch will be served at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center, in Easton, MD, and speakers will be throughout the day. The trip will be back to Annapolis before 5pm.

If you cannot make the bus tour but would still like to meet us for lunch, please RSVP!

For more information, contact Josh Hastings at 410-251-5268 or jhastings@eslc.org.

Useful Links

Partners for Open Space Website

Rural Maryland Council Website