149-Acre Farm Protected for Rural Education Center (MD)

Towson, MD, 8/25/2006: Touting the county’s rich agricultural heritage and the industry’s local importance, The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith announced that the county has settled with private property owners on a significant parcel of rural property that will become the home of the Baltimore County Agricultural Resource Center and Farm Park.

The center will promote and foster agriculture in the county, serve as an educational resource center, and conserve valuable open space. The county purchased the 149-acre farm from the Tillman family for $3.85 million. The planned center and park complex, expected to cost approximately $3 million to build, will serve as a centralized facility to bring together a number of agricultural support agencies that enhance the protection of soil and water resources through research-based, modern land management and farming techniques. It will also serve as the base for an expanded public education initiative to broaden the public’s understanding of the role of agriculture, promote related economic opportunities, and highlight the unique role rural communities play in our society.

“This really all started about 25 years ago when we had a young county councilman named Jim Smith who had the foresight to establish the rural conservation zones and has been a strong supporter of rural land preservation for decades,” said Wayne McGinnis, who chairs the Baltimore County Agricultural Resource Center, Inc. “This project has been a great partnership with the county and we really look forward to having all of the local, state and federal agricultural service agencies in one location to better serve the farmers, as well as the great opportunities for public education,” he said.

“This is a natural extension of our emphasis on preserving farmland and protecting rural resources as part of our Green Renaissance in Baltimore County,” said Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith. “Agriculture is a rapidly changing business sector and as a business-friendly county, we want to encourage the stability and growth of our agricultural businesses,” Smith said.

The center will serve as an educational resource center to promote public understanding of farming practices and technologies as well as being a field destination site for schoolchildren and adults. The county intends to maintain some 100 acres in active agricultural uses and incorporate these functions into educational programming and demonstrations hosted by public agencies as well as an array of private organizations such as the Master Gardeners program, equestrian programs, beekeeper groups, and others.

The new farm park will provide open space benefits of walking and equestrian trail riding complementing the adjacent Oregon Ridge Park, which is just across the street.

“It’s been a long desire of many people that now appears about to be fulfilled,” said 3rd District Councilman T. Bryan McIntire. “The farming community and the community at large need such a facility.”

The Trust for Public Land, a national non-profit land conservation organization, helped facilitate the county’s purchase of this property. “We were pleased to assist Baltimore County with the purchase of this land, which will allow for the creation of a wonderful agricultural resource center that will allow current and future generations to visit in order to glimpse and learn from the county’s agricultural history,” said Richard Ross, senior project manager for The Trust for Public Land.

Funding for the facility is drawn from a number of sources including $900,000 from the county’s general fund, $1.89 million in Program Open Space funding, and $1 million from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Baltimore County is nationally recognized for its strong local land use and preservation policies, with a 40-year history of growth management efforts. The county created the Urban Rural Demarcation Line in 1967, which established a clear boundary between the urban and suburban areas serviced by public water and sewer, and the area destined to retain its rural character. In 1975, the county created Rural Conservation Zones, including an Agricultural Preservation Zone to protect rural resources. Smith, when he served as 3rd District County Councilman, sponsored legislation to make the Agricultural Zone more protective. In the 1980s and 1990s, the county created a variety of agricultural preservation programs that have preserved some 50,000 acres, more than halfway toward its goal of 80,000 acres.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL has helped protect more than 8,000 acres of land in Maryland. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information, visit www.tpl.org or call (202) 543-7552.