Sierra Club Response to the Certification of a Heritage Area by Patapsco Heritage Greenway, Inc.
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.
The Patapsco Heritage Greenway, Inc. proposed the creation of a Maryland Heritage Area in 1998 and again in 2013. Both proposals incuded a large part of Patapsco Valley State Park and called for numerous development projects in the Park. The first proposal was defeated.
The Sierra Club position on the second proposal is that development projects in the Park should be approved through a public process, not through plans and funding arranged privately by the managing entity of a Heritage Area. In the absence of a current Master Plan for the PVSP, the Sierra Club suggested that the Heritage Area be defined so that the boundaries excluded the state parkland.
The Patapsco Valley Heritage Area includes 5000 acres of Patapsco Valley State Park. The "managing entity" of the Heritage Area is a private non-profit organization that is eligible for state funding and tax breaks.
The "Management Plan" for the Heritage Area includes numerous specific plans for the Park, 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 Sierra Club campaign lasted from August 2013 until January 2015. The campaign was funded by a Grassroots grant from the national Sierra Club, and was 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, and supporting documentation, is here.
"Preserve Patapsco Valley State Park" will continue as a stewardship, advocacy, and support group for Patapsco Valley State Park.
The Maryland Historical Trust includes the Maryland Heritage Areas Program. The program is directed by the 19-member Maryland Heritage Area Authority.
There were 12 areas in Maryland designated as “Certified Heritage Areas” after the initial proposal of the Patapsco Heritage Greenway in 1998. 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.