Campaign Goal: to ensure public involvement in planning in Patapsco Valley State Park, in order to prevent environmental damage due to proposed tourism development projects.
A proposal for a new Maryland Heritage Area will include 5000 acres of Patapsco Valley State Park (green). The Sierra Club position on the proposal is that the Park should be excluded from the Heritage Area.
The proposal was written by Patapsco Heritage Greenway, Inc. and includes numerous specific plans for the Heritage Area, such as construction of new trails, parking lots, riverfront parks, and an overlook above the Thomas Viaduct. Some of these projects are described as "collaborations" with the Park, but none of these projects have actually been approved by the Maryland Park Service.
The Maryland Park Service is now preparing a new Trail Management Plan for Patapsco Valley State Park, with the input of stakeholders; the final Plan will be reviewed at a public hearing before being adopted.
The MHAA scheduled a public hearing for Dec. 8, 2014 and will vote on certification in January 2015. If certified, the Patapsco Heritage Greenway, Inc. will be subsidized by state funds to be the "managing entity" of the new Patapsco Valley Heritage Area. The "managing entity" is a private non-profit organization that will have no public or governmental oversight once certified.
The Sierra Club position is that all development plans proposed for the State Park must be approved by the Park Service through a public process before the "managing entity" of the Heritage Area can seek state funding for those projects.
Campaign Leaders: the campaign is funded by a Grassroots grant from the national Sierra Club, and is a joint conservation campaign of the Maryland Chapter, the Howard County Group, and the Greater Baltimore Group of the Sierra Club. The contact person is Joanne Heckman (joanne.heckman[@]mdsierra.org). A history of the campaign is here.
The Maryland Historical Trust includes the Maryland Heritage Areas Program. The program is directed by the 19-member Maryland Heritage Area Authority.
There are currently 12 areas in Maryland designated as “Certified Heritage Areas”. The Patapsco Heritage Greenway organization is seeking certification for a 13th, to be called "Patapsco Valley Heritage Area". The area would include about 60% of Patapsco Valley State Park, from Daniels to Elkridge, along with the surrounding communities.
The purpose of the certification is to increase economic development within the area. Specifically, it means the designation of Target Investment Zones for building history-based tourist attractions, to “create or enhance heritage tourism products and services”, and “to market Heritage Area sites and events to visitors and the tourism and hospitality industry” (see MHAA website). A Maryland statute governs the Heritage Areas.