Public Decisions about Public Land

The Goal of Park Planning

The master plan for a Maryland state park is the result of a systematic process which includes thorough site analysis. assessments of the regional setting, and environmental sensitivity, appraisal of alternatives, public participation, and cost evaluation in formulating the various proposals advanced.
1981 Master Plan for Patapsco Valley State Park 
( PVSP Master Plan 1981.pdf)
 
The Sierra Club position is that the crucial element is "public participation", especially through the Citizens Advisory Committee. 
 
The citizens advisory committee works with the principal park planner in drafting a master plan that will be harmonious with the needs and preferences of the local and regional population. Committee members influence the general scheme of a park by voicing their own concerns and by relaying the viewpoints of the public regarding the development issues being discussed.
 
The 1981 Master Plan was "considered relevant for approximately twenty years". After that, the same process of site analysis, opinion surveys, and public hearings would be required for any subsequent plans. The paticipants in the planning process should include all the stakeholders: experts from the Department of Natural Resources, representatives of special interest groups, and members of the general public.
 
A Shared Vision 
 
That process has not yet taken place. Heritage tourism is only one of the recreational opportunities in the Park. The Heritage Areas Program didn't exist in 1981, so the decision to include the Park in a Heritage Area was never considered in the overall vision for the Park. Specific projects, such as building trails and overlooks, can only be considered with respect to the overall plan, and should require a public review as well.

No single special-interest group should have exclusive privileges in deciding the future of the State Park, or any specific construction projects in the Park; it seems like a violation of the public trust for the Park Service to plan and collaborate in private (see the letter from the Park Service to the Howard County Council: Nita Settina re Patapsco Heritage Greenway.pdf).

Balancing the disparate uses of the Park (while preserving it) is the job of the Department of Natural Resources. All the advocates for the Park should be equal stakeholders. The Sierra Club position is that the Patapsco Heritage Greenway, Inc. would not be an equal stakeholder in Park planning if acting as the "managing entity" for the Park at the same time. The expectation is that PHG, Inc. would fund the Master Plan as well (see the Baltimore Sun article, in which the PHG, Inc. president explains, "You can't do one without the other.") 

If certified as "managing entity" of a Heritage Area including Park property, PHG, Inc. would be able to fund and carry out construction projects in the State Park without public review. According to the Howard County Council (see work session video of July 22, 2014 at ), DNR will approve the PHG, Inc. plans through the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority directly. This was confirmed by the Attorney General’s office ( PHA Memo Attorney General.doc): no public review is required.

To construct paths and overlooks in the Park while financing and working on the Master Plan for the Park at the same time, seems like an egregious conflict of interest.

All the other activities of a Heritage Area, from marketing to environmental stewardship to "telling the story", can be accomplished without including the Park in the Area. Including the Park in the Area, before the Master Plan is written, allows construction to begin on projects before they are approved by the public. That is, in fact, the ONLY reason to include the Park from the beginning, rather than adding it to the Heritage Area after writing a new Master Plan.

The Sierra Club position is that the Park's Master Plan, and any potential construction projects for the Park, must first be approved by the public. Share our position with decision-makers, especially at the Park Service: email Nita.Settina@maryland.gov.