Posted by: Ann Corcoran | June 27, 2012

Greenways are not just for biking (or walking or horseback riding)

….in fact their primary purpose is to control nearby land!

Update June 29th:  Be sure to see the history lesson about how these land-use control mechanisms came to be.

Last Thursday evening at the contentious hearing on the Washington County Commissioners Rail-Trail* plan, you may have heard the proponents of the plan, the biking hobbyists, use the word “greenway.”   Sounds pretty benign, right?   It isn’t.

Greenway(s) is a buzzword for an entire political movement in the US to control land use by developing greenlines of government controlled land winding its way through private property.   The biking hiking hobbyists/recreationists are merely the stalking horses for the plan.  Ultimately government agencies will control the land adjoining the “greenway” as they have done in Washington County with the C & O Canal and the Appalachian Trail (both of which have been dramatically widened way beyond the path itself).

Mark my words, if your property adjoins the trail you will have to be watchful for the rest of your life.   Forget it if hog farming is your passion or you want to develop the land to fund your retirement!

Greenways are the geographical framework for regional planning”  (Charles Little, 1990)

Little is the author of  “Greenways for America,” a 1990 book in which he describes the greenways movement and goals as the “forerunner to regional planning.”

Readers remember PlanMaryland and how many county governments, including the Washington County government! unsuccessfully sought to defeat O’Malley’s plan last year to control county landuse from Annapolis.  Greenways and Greenlining are part of the plan.  Don’t believe me?  See Maryland’s Atlas of Greenways, here, and see that the Washington County proposed trail is part of the greenway plan for Maryland.  See also Maryland Trail’s Strategic Plan, here.

Landowner abuse on the C & O Canal

I met author Little at a meeting near Ellicott City on November 1st, 1990 when he came to Maryland to promote his book and his concept.  I remember challenging him during a break about how brutally they treated landowners along the C & O Canal.  If you are not aware, the National Park Service condemned approximately 70 property owners in Washington County alone to create a scenic “viewshed” for the trail.  I told Little they abused landowners merely so the bikers didn’t have to see laundry hanging from peoples’ clothes lines along the trail.  It was a Washington DC elitist-driven initiative.  I remember that he was unmoved by the plight of the lower middle-class people who lost their homes.

In fact, few people know this but the National Park Service took Ferry Hill outside of Sharpsburg by condemnation. The historic home was a popular local restaurant that had absolutely no connection to the trail below it.  The feds just wanted it!

Most of the C & O Canal takings occurred in the 1970’s but I see in testimony to the House of Representatives in 2009 (almost 4 decades after the Canal trail was established) that  the American Land Rights Association testified that  Congressman Roscoe Bartlett was still trying to help former landowners resolve their land disputes with the federal government.   Here is what Charles Cushman said in testimony against a new funding bill for more parkland:

C & O Canal in Maryland —– The Park Service threatened all landowners with condemnation in the years around 1974. Even though they were required to offer landowners a life tenancy under the 1969 Uniform Relocation Act, the agency failed to provide each landowner notice of his rights because park officials wanted to limit any use and occupancy reservations to 25 years. The result is that now the landowners are fighting to get what was fairly theirs. Their Congressman, Roscoe Bartlett, has worked tirelessly to try to save the former landowners from Park Service eviction.

Biking hobbyists will be quick to say that this Rail Trail won’t be controlled by the federal government so there won’t be eminent domain, but frankly they can’t promise that.  State and local governments are permitted to obtain land by condemnation (see the infamous case: Kelo v. City of New London) and then transfer the land to a private developer of their liking!   Short of condemnation the more pressing fear landowners should have is that more land use restrictions will surely follow the greenline that will now go through their properties.

The good-taste gestapo lives!

Here is what I said in a post almost a year ago about Senator Ben Cardin bringing in federal bucks for the C & O Canal.  Land use controls will inevitably follow a trail designation:

Greenlining and greenways are just mechanisms to control more land even if they [governmental agencies] don’t own it outright by convincing state and local officials to zone the viewsheds to “protect” the government-owned land from your potentially tasteless use of your property.

 See also The Ruling Class v. the Country Class!

* New readers visit our Washington County Rail Trail category here.

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