Preserve Patapsco Valley State Park

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 Sierra Club position is that the public should participate in Park planning before any new construction projects are approved.  

A proposal for a new Maryland Heritage Area would include 5000 acres of Patapsco Valley State Park (green) in economic development projects to promote tourism, with no public oversight.

The Public Should be Included in State Park Planning

Our State Parks belong to all the citizens of Maryland. The public should have input into development plans for the natural resources of the State Parks as follows.

1.       State Parks are supposed to be governed by a publicly approved Master Plan. The 1981 Master Plan for Patapsco Valley State Park ( PVSP Master Plan 1981.pdfbecame obsolete in 2001.

2.       Specific proposals for the Heritage Area include construction of new trails, parking lots, riverfront parks, and an overlook above the Thomas Viaduct; these projects have not been authorized by the public.

3.       In the absence of a Master Plan, there are no specific measures for conservation or environmental protection governing these construction projects.

4.       The proposal is that the Heritage Area will be managed by a private non-profit organization. There should be public and governmental oversight of a special-interest group chartered to plan and fund construction projects on state land.

The Sierra Club Position

The Sierra Club position is that the Heritage Area proposal should be revised to exclude the Patapsco Valley State Park from the boundaries of the proposed Heritage Area until an up-to-date, publicly-approved Master Plan for the State Park has been completed by the DNR with citizen participation. 

The language for excluding the Park from the Heritage Area could be inserted in the draft Management Plan in section 7.6, and again 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. 

The only reason to include the State Park in the Heritage Area without a current DNR Master Plan is to fund land acquisition and construction projects in the Park without public review.


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, with supporting documents, is here


Maryland Heritage Areas

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. 

The website describes the process for certification as: 1) the community in the area requests that the area be “recognized” as a Heritage Area; 2) the community submits a Management Plan that has been approved by all the local jurisdictions in the area; 3) once certified, a "managing entity" is created. 

In this case, a private organization calling itself Patapsco Heritage Greenway, Inc. is both submitting the proposal and expects to become the managing entity.

The local jurisdictions in this case are Baltimore County and Howard County. Each county and the MHAA will have to hold public hearings before certification. 

Share the Sierra Club's position with the decision-makers.

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