Friday, October 14, 2022

Bay Foundation Gets Tallies Whacked over Farm Ownership

Chesapeake Bay Foundation to give up control of environmental treasure near Annapolis, "President Hilary Falk announces the foundation will seek 'new steward' for 300 acres it has kept largely hidden from the public for 20 years."

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation reversed itself Wednesday and announced it will give up its hold on 300 acres it has maintained as a largely private environmental preserve for 20 years.

Hilary Harp Falk, president and CEO of the Annapolis-based environmental group, wrote in a blog entry posted to the foundation website that the organization has decided to seek a “new steward” for Holly Beach Farm.

“This step marks the beginning of the process to transfer ownership – the property cannot be sold per the deed – to another steward. CBF will decide who the next owner will be in consultation with the organization that entrusted us with the property, The Conservation Fund, and the State of Maryland, which holds the conservation easement,” she wrote.

A spokesperson for the foundation said the new steward would take over responsibility for overseeing the mostly undeveloped property near Annapolis. He declined a request for an interview with Falk on the decision or its implication.

The announcement represents a reversal from the foundation’s position on Holly Beach Farm as recently as June, when a series of stories by Meanwhile, in Annapolis explored the land and its future. CBF officials said at the time that they were about to embark on a multi-year update of the property.
. . .
The land is dotted with environmental treasures – giant magnolia, oak and hemlock, a wide array of waterfowl species and a freshwater pond within sight of the salty Chesapeake that defies easy explanation.

But for the 20 years since Holly Beach Farm was purchased by The Conservation Fund in a deal using state and federal money, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has resisted pressure to open it to wider use.

In a January 2021 email obtained by Meanwhile, in Annapolis through the Maryland Public Information Act, the head of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources said her agency determined that the foundation was not meeting the public access requirements of state and federal financing for the acquisition of the property.

“In May 2017, DNR conducted an inspection of the property as mandated by (Land and Water Conservation Fund),” DNR Secretary Jeanne H. Riccio wrote to then-state treasurer Nancy Kopp. “Upon inspection, DNR determined that public access to the property was not adequate to meet the requirements of Program Open Space and LWCF.”

A spokesperson for the DNR was not able to comment on the development Wednesday afternoon.

That was about the same time the foundation board rejected a proposal to turn Holly Beach Farm over to the National Park Trust for potential use as part of the planned Chesapeake National Recreation Area, a national park based in Annapolis that would link environmental and recreational sites around the region.

It was so nice, they decided to keep it to themselves, despite the fact that they bought it with taxpayer money. 

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