….and claim the 24-mile multimillion dollar trail through peoples’ yards and farms enjoys wide public support!
For readers who live elsewhere in the region and might find this issue too narrow and too local to interest you, please reconsider that conclusion. This Washington County Rail Trail proposal put forth by a completely Republican County Commission should be instructive for all. And, before I get to the letter the Board of County Commissioners sent to O’Malley’s Department of Natural Resources inviting their involvement in county landuse planning, here is what I see are the bigger issues this episode demonstrates:
* Tea Partiers everywhere need to be vigilant, just because we elected Republicans doesn’t mean we elected fiscal watchdogs and defenders of property rights.
* Property owners who are adjacent to, or near, any government land must forever be vigilant in defense of your property rights. The advocates for more government control of your lives and your property are always planning the next step for more control. [Better still, don't buy a home or land near any government land! Take it from me!]
* Projects like this trail are all part of the “greenlining” strategy put in place decades ago when environmental statists in Washington found that they couldn’t get federal zoning. They knew they had to do this in pieces—first the fingers of government owned land, then they connect those “fingers” and argue for more restrictions on land use adjoining those greenlines. The process could take more than half a century and you likely won’t see the full picture until then (or your kids will see it).
* The bikers or recreationists, or historic preservationists who advocate for these projects are self-interested and serve as the ‘cover’ for such projects, helping send a positive public relations message. They aren’t bad people, they are just people who think government is there to satisfy their personal wishes and facilitate their hobbies.
* This particular group of Republican County Commissioners actually hired a lobbyist to help fight O’Malley’s PlanMaryland (Executive Order signed Dec. 19th, 2011) and then don’t see that inviting DNR in to county landuse decision-making is all part of PlanMaryland.
* And, here is another lesson for everyone—don’t assume your current leaders have any clue about the history of issues in your county, like this one that generated a huge outcry two decades ago against the County Commissioners and against DNR.
Now to that letter I mentioned (By the way, another lesson for all is that you must get their own documents when organizing a citizens’ grassroots campaign against a government/special interest- generated project like this one.).
This line was of interest:
In March, the commissioners and the City of Hagerstown sent a letter to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources asking for consideration and support of the project.
Here are some bits from that March 16th, 2012 letter signed by President of the BOCC, Terry L. Baker to Secretary John R. Griffin, Maryland Department of Natural Resources (emphasis mine):
We are very pleased to present our unified support [All commissioners support this?---ed] with the City of Hagerstown and the Town of Keedysville to initiate the planning process for the development of a “Civil War Railroad Trail” from ….Weverton to City Park in Hagerstown.
This is truly a community-supported project. [Really!---ed] It is supported at the local level and local elected officials are committed to open outreach and transparency for this project. We will continue to seek community support and input regarding the project all throughout the planning, design and construction phases. This 23.4 mile project is an investment in not only recreation, but also economic development and tourism in our community. Washington County has among the highest unemployment rates in Maryland, and this investment in our economy would generate revenue and jobs, as witnessed after the construction of other trail projects in the State, region and across the country.
Let me be clear! If President Baker and others think this construction project would be awarded to a local company they are sadly mistaken. It will surely go to a company from Montgomery, Prince George’s or Baltimore County where companies have significant numbers of minority workers to satisfy state law requirements. It will go to companies which have a crony relationship with Governor Martin O’Malley.
And, then the letter goes on to say the trail will be a transportation corridor….blah, blah, blah… for all those workers biking their way down to the little burg of Weverton no doubt.
They envision funding to come from all levels of government.
And, then here is the clincher for me—besides the cost they are prepared to turn this all over to the DNR for management!
The community would be open to the DNR managing the trail once it is constructed….
On May 14th DNR responded saying they don’t have any money but they will happily help WC plan this since it fits Governor Martin O’Malley’s plans for the state!
From Secretary John Griffen:
Governor O’Malley has directed all state agencies to work together to help make Maryland’s trail network “second to none” by implementing the vision of connecting our public lands to the places where people live, work, shop and play. As stated in your letter, the CWRT is a unique project that has the potential to incorporate many of those goals and contribute to increased economic development* and tourism in Washington County.
* Sounds lovely, but if the trails in Washington County already in place added to the economic development of the county we would have the richest county in the state. The truth is the only economic benefit this trail will bring is the kind involving a “half tank of gas and a sandwich.” The construction itself will be done by companies from elsewhere in Maryland. The trail will however serve to add one more “greenline” to the map of Maryland and the land use restrictions on home owners will surely follow.
Be sure to see Taxpayers and Homeowners join forces to fight the trail proposal, here. See letter sent to all affected property owners.
New readers—I’ve made a new category, here, to gather posts on the Washington County Rail Trail because I think this isn’t going away anytime soon—unless of course the Commissioners see the error of their ways and give it up!