State Funds Planned For Bays

BERLIN – Maryland’s Board of Public Works (BPW) this week approved grants totaling nearly $12 million to local governments and land trusts earmarked for the preservation of farmland and forest, including $1 million for Worcester County’s coastal bays.

On Wednesday, the three-member BPW, which includes Governor Martin O’Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, approved $11.8 million in grants for farm and forest preservation through the state’s Rural Legacy Program. Included in the approved expenditure for the Rural Legacy Program is $1 million for Worcester County for use in the coastal bays watershed.

While the state budget situation has not greatly improved, O’Malley acknowledged a continued investment in the Rural Legacy Program is a priority given the environmental, economic and cultural benefit the program provides to Marylanders.

“Maryland’s forests, farms and open spaces tell a story about us, about our history, our culture, the people who came before us and the people we have become,” he said. “It’s imperative that we continue to protect these lands that define the rural character of our state, provide for our way of life and support our natural resources-based livelihoods such as farming, forestry, tourism and outdoor recreation.”

Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program preserves large, contiguous tracts of land and enhances natural resources, agricultural, forestry and environmental protection while supporting sustainable land for natural resource-based industry. The program is somewhat unique in that it creates public-private partnerships through local government and land trusts.

It is uncertain just what the $1 million earmarked for Worcester County’s Rural Legacy Program will be used for at this time. Maryland Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin said the $12 million allocated by the BPW this week, including the $1 million for Worcester, would be put to good use.

“While the demand for land conservation dollars in Maryland always far outweighs available funding, one needs only to look at some of our successes to see that these programs are clearly working,” he said.

In a related action on Wednesday, the BPW approved over $10,000 in Program Open Space funds for improvements at Stephen Decatur Park in Berlin for removing old playground equipment and replacing it with a modern play structure, along with installing a safety playing surface with the requisite curbing and site preparation.