Private Corporation as "Managing Entity" of Heritage Area's State Parkland

The Patapsco Heritage Greenway, Inc. is a private organization that has submitted a proposal to become the "managing entity" of a Heritage Area that would include 5000 acres of Patapsco Valley State Park. The "managing entity" is entitled to apply for state grants for its own management, and also for land acquisition and construction projects that PHG, Inc. would carry out in Patapsco Valley State Park. Heritage Areas are supposed to be certified upon the request of the community, after which a "managing entity" is created. In this case, the presumptive "managing entity" is applying for certification on its own behalf.

Quotations (in italics) are from the draft Management Plan by the Patapsco Heritage Greenway, Inc. 

Section 9, Objective 5.1: The Patapsco Heritage Greenway, Inc. (PHG) was established in December 1999 as a a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization incorporated in the state of Maryland on July 28, 1980. Since 1999, the PHG Board of Directors has managed the organization and its programs and activities, acting as “a working board”. (The Patapsco Heritage Greenway, Inc. from time-to-time may also do business as the Friends of the Patapsco Valley Heritage Greenway.)

The organization, established under one name in 1980 and another in 1999, now goes by the two names given here; the By-laws of the Corporation were revised in 2013 and are included in the Management Plan.

The benefits of the Heritage Area designation include:

Executive Summary, page ii: financial benefits to heritage area partners and owners of heritage resources; matching grants to support management of the heritage area (for the Patapsco Heritage Greenway), for capital and non-capital heritage tourism projects, and for heritage area marketing activities by PHG, Visit Howard County, and Enjoy Baltimore County); expanded eligibility for certain types of state tax credits for owners of historic buildings; loans to non-profit organizations, local jurisdictions, individuals, and businesses for heritage; tourism-related capital projects including acquisition, refinancing, rehabilitation, and predevelopment (projects must address or complete a priority activity outlined in the approved management plan and must be endorsed by the Patapsco Heritage Greenway)

Benefits to other organizations, individuals, or jurisdictions "must be endorsed" by PHG, Inc. The Executive Summary stresses that the Management Goals of the Heritage Area are focused on PHG, Inc. as well:

Executive Summary page v: Goals and Objectives; Management – Assure a strong, sustainable organization for Patapsco Heritage Greenway, Inc.

Executive Summary page x: Management Priorities: develop and implement organizational management actions needed to support and sustain PHG operations related to the heritage area; develop and implement a long-range development plan that provides secure, stable funding from diverse sources to support PHG as the heritage area’s management entity and to support special projects and programs

Funds for the "managing entity" itself will include grants, donations, and "earned income":

Section 9 Objective 5.3; Earned Income: Special programs offer opportunities for earned income. Typical heritage area earned income streams are associated with tours, sales of heritage area products, and partner/business membership in special programs. In the future, PHG should explore opportunities to engage in appropriate earned income enterprises, incorporating consideration of earned income opportunities as part of preparing its development plan (see action 5.3.1b). To increase funding for PHG operations and programs from earned income, the PHG staff and board will need to do the following: Action 5.3.5a Explore opportunities for earned income. Action 5.3.5b Include a focus on earned income when creating the development plan.

The budget projects income of $313,000 for PHG, Inc. for fiscal year 2015. This includes a $100,000 management grant from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority. Only $500 in membership fees are expected. Since memberships cost $20/year, that represents 25 members -- about the same number as sit on the self-appointed Board of Directors. 

There is no other independent or public oversight of the PHG, Inc., such as a  Board of Trustees. Partnerships are mentioned, but no partners are named in the Management Plan. Advisory boards will have no authority:

In the future, a heritage advisory committee will serve in an advisory capacity to the PHG Board of Directors. The committee will be composed of members of the historic, cultural, archeological, and natural resource communities who are heritage partners. The PHG board president will serve as the official chair of the committee, which will meet a minimum of twice per year. 

Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, offered to form an advisory committee to the PHG, Inc., but were refused. 

Sierra Club Position

Like any other private non-profit organization, the PHG, Inc. writes its own mission statement and by-laws, admits members, and appoints a Board of Directors. With the Certification, the non-profit will become a "managing entity" of a State-designated economic development zone, subsidized by State funds to develop tourist attractions on Park property. This status should require oversight by an Board or agency, and some mechanism for accountability to the public. 
Instead, no public oversight is required for the organization, and no public review will be required of Heritage Area projects in the State Park, which could be funded directly through PHG, Inc. via the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority.
For this reason, the Sierra Club position is that public review of the Park's development plans should take place first, through the process of creating a new Master Plan for the Park, before the Park is included in the Heritage Area.