Testimony to Baltimore County Council

Maryland Chapter7338
Baltimore Ave Suite 102

College Park, MD 20740 

To:  the Baltimore County Council, August 27, 2014

RE: Sierra Club Objections to Patapsco Heritage Greenway draft Management Plan for a Patapsco Valley Heritage Area

Dear Board,

The proposed Patapsco Heritage Area could be certified and achieve all the goals of a Heritage Area without including the Patapsco Valley State Park. The ONLY reason to include the Park is to allow PHG, Inc. to fund projects in the Park with DNR approval via the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, without any public review. Documentation of this is given below.

In a recent conversation with Richard Hughes, Director of the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, I was told that the Patapsco Valley State Park does NOT have to be included in the Heritage Area. The Park could be added to the Heritage Area in the future.

The decision to do this should be PART OF the Master Plan developed with public participation by all stakeholders represented equally.

In the meantime, excluding the State Park would still allow certification of the Heritage Area with PHG, Inc. as the “managing entity”, eligible for management grants, loans, and funding for county projects. PHG, Inc. could promote tourism, “tell the story” of the area’s history, and even continue environmental stewardship programs in the Park, as before.

In fact, this will ensure that funds go to county projects for economic development, and not to supplementing the state park’s budget.

The PHG, Inc. Management Plan includes a schedule for revising the boundaries of the Heritage Area in the future. If the PHG, Inc. can establish itself as a community institution with success in developing heritage tourism attractions, it will have a better chance of expanding the Heritage Area into Carroll and Anne Arundel County, as planned.

The language for excluding the Park from the Heritage Area could be inserted in the PHG Management Plan in section 7.6 and in section 1.4, replacing the sentence beginning“ MD DNR has supported designation of the park…”. Sample language:

The Patapsco Valley State Park is an important thematic component of the Heritage Area, but for the purposes of administration and economic development, it is excluded from the boundaries of the Heritage Area and is not subject to the provisions of the PHG, Inc. Management Plan or the supervision of the PHG, Inc. as the “managing entity” of the Heritage Area. Collaborations that affect Patapsco Valley State Park must be at the request of the appropriate state agency responsible for the Park and collaborative projects must conform to current, publicly-available state plans and regulations.

Thank you for maintaining public control over public parks and their development.


Joanne Heckman, Team Leader, Preserve Patapsco Valley State Park
Grassroots Conservation Campaign, National Sierra Club

Dave O’Leary, Steering Committee, Preserve Patapsco Valley State Park
Maryland Sierra Club

Ken Clark, Steering Committee, Preserve Patapsco Valley State Park
Howard County Sierra Club

Chris Yoder, Preserve Patapsco Valley State Park
Greater Baltimore Sierra Club


The Patapsco Heritage Greenway, Inc. proposed Heritage Area Management Plan will allow a Private Special-Interest Group to Bypass Public Review of State Park Development Projects

On July 25, 2014 the Howard County Council voted to approve the Patapsco Heritage Greenway Inc. proposal for a Heritage Area that includes the lower third of the Patapsco Valley State Park. This will allow the Patapsco Heritage Greenway, Inc. to carry out construction projects in the State Park without further public review.

This is the ONLY REASON to include the State Park in the Heritage Area. All other goals of the Heritage Area can be achieved without including the Park in the area.

The Park Service and the Department of Natural Resources, as state agencies, cannot get funding for their operations by being part of the Heritage Area. Only the PHG, Inc., as managing entity of the Heritage Area, can get funding from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, and only for projects already listed in the Management Plan for that section of the State Park that is within the boundary of the Heritage Area (1). This was confirmed by the Attorney General’s office, with a note that the projects in the PHG Management Plan are “not inconsistent with the park purposes” (2).

The Sierra Club position is to exclude the State Park from the boundary of the Heritage Area until an up-to-date publicly-approved Master Plan is prepared for the State Park. Otherwise, individual PHG projects can be approved for the Park by DNR, through MHAA, without public review. 

According to a DNR statement included in the PHG Management Plan (3), the PHG construction projects in the Park will be approved by the DNR Land Acquisition and Planning department. John Wilson is the Assistant Chief of the DNR Land Acquisition and Planning department and also the DNR representative on the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority board of directors. According to the Howard County Council (see work session video of July 22, 2014 at http://howardcounty.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=2094), MHAA approval will therefore constitute DNR approval. This applies to the Management Plan upon certification, and to grant proposals afterwards. This arrangement explicitly by-passes any public review of these projects. 

If the DNR, MHAA, and PHG are not planning to approve and fund these projects, then they could exclude the Park from the Heritage Area boundary until the Master Plan is written with public participation. If they are using the MHAA as a way to allow DNR to approve and fund the PHG projects, then they are deliberately avoiding public review in order to accommodate a special-interest group.


Annotated references. Highlights and comments by Joanne Heckman.

1)    PHG Draft Management Plan June 2014, Page ii, Executive Summary

Benefits of Being a Certified Heritage Area

• 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)

  • All funding goes to PHG or through PHG, including for capital projects; projects must already be in the PHG Management Plan; government agencies, such as DNR, are not eligible for direct funding. The Heritage Area status could not be used by DNR to raise funds for writing a new Master Plan.

2)      The letter from the Attorney General’s office dated July 24, 2014 states:

…only DNR can direct or implement development within the Park. Moreover, to the extent that DNR, as Park property owner, might seek to leverage MHAA grants for Park projects, any such project would have to further the objectives of the management plan in order to qualify for funding from MHAA. The Draft Patapsco Valley Heritage Area Management Plan identifies no projects within the existing boundaries of the Park inconsistent with park purposes,…

3)    PHG Draft Management Plan June 2014,  Section 7.6 Patapsco Valley State Park

The current 5,346 acres of the Patapsco Valley State Park located within the heritage area are governed by the land use designations of the MD DNR as set forth in the Code of Maryland Regulations In accordance with these general provisions, the park area classifications, uses, and development activities are determined by the current Patapsco Valley State Park Master Plan and subsequent and more detailed plans for individual areas. The planning staffs of MD DNR’s Land Acquisition and Planning Group and Integrated Policy and Review Unit are involved in all long-range planning, management, and development projects within the park. The Maryland Park Service oversees the implementation of these activities.

  • The “current” Master Plan is dated 1981 and became obsolete in 2001.
  • “subsequent and more detailed plans” are not publicly available
  • John Wilson is the Asst. Chief of Land Acquisition and Planning, and is also the DNR representative on the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority board.
  • This paragraph says nothing about public approval of the construction projects listed in the PHG Management Plan.