Editors note: This is another in my continuing series of posts inspired by the Washington County Commissioners plan to reopen the contentious two-decades-old issue of constructing a biking trail (supporters call it a greenway) that would follow the 24-mile stretch of mostly abandoned rail way line from Hagerstown to Weverton. Some of you might find this post too long, but it’s important to understand the concept of this sort of planning—-it is not about locking up the land so much as controlling development so that a favorite few developers who work with government agencies and elected officials will have an inside track—some call it a public-private partnership, we call it cronyism.
On this 4th of July, I expect the Founding Fathers would be troubled to see what our government has become. American government was to have only a few critical functions including among them to protect the citizenry and their property. Government was not to be used for one’s own personal enrichment or prestige (or one’s friends enrichment and prestige), nor was it to supply (through public-private partnerships) special interest hobbyists with their playgrounds at the expense of their fellow citizens.
Maryland was to be the Greenway model for America
While I had no internet for several days following the recent run of heavy thunderstorms, it gave me time I usually don’t take to search through my many file cabinets of documents I began collecting more than twenty years ago when I published a national newsletter about property rights for farmers, ranchers and home owners whose property rights were being taken by various branches of government.
So what did I find?—inches of material (letters and documents) on Maryland Greenways that I obtained in 1989 and 1990 as a result of a couple of Maryland Public Information Requests to the Department of Natural Resources.
But, before I get to that, let me digress for a paragraph or two to just tell you the basic strategy we landowners uncovered at Antietam Battlefield at about the same time.
By the way, think about all this when you read the column in last Sunday’s Herald Mail by Art Callaham telling readers a half truth about the development of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. What advocates for government plans to revitalize downtowns never tell you is how many people suffered when they were forced out of their homes or how many insiders/developers benefited from the “revitalization.” According to people like Callaham, all we country class people need to know is that our lives are in the capable good hands of the smart people and the planners who belong to the ruling class and are thus entitled to make plans for us—right!
In the late 1980’s then Governor William Donald Schaefer wanted Southern Washington County to be the “Inner Harbor of the West.” The state had commissioned and completed a study entitled, “Convention Center and Second Home Development for Southern Washington County.” But, we who lived here had to unearth that document and initially one Herald Mail editor denied it even existed (more than a decade after the fact he did admit the plan existed). The Herald Mail was working with the power structure —the Washington County Ruling Class—to keep what was happening from the general public (sound familiar!).
[Gee, didn’t we recently note that Callaham called his vision of government the “Community Development Corporation.” He as much as said there shouldn’t be an independent press. The corporation, or influencers, of the corporation would be: “money folks, planners, government, the press,” he said.]
At Baltimore’s Inner Harbor Schaefer and crony developers had the harbor as the focal point, as Callaham pointed out.
In Southern Washington County, Antietam Battlefield would be the centerpiece, but with the Appalachian Trail and C & O Canal in public hands as well as other state parks, the county would be ideal as a tourist destination for history hobbyists and outdoorsy types from our nearby metropolises Baltimore and Washington, DC. But, here is the kicker, the government agencies involved—the Washington County Commissioners, the Democrat Governor and the Department of Interior in Washington DC—had to be sure the local yokels didn’t do anything obnoxious with their private property—LOL! like pig farming—that would mess up the amenities.
If you are now saying, well, this sounds like a good business plan, then you are not a conservative and you are not a believer in good and honest government. First, a conservative would question why such a model was even the role of government in the first place. And, second, in order to pull off such a plan as developer James Rouse did at the Inner Harbor or to build the planned town of Columbia, Maryland, the people most affected must be kept in the dark for as long as possible (so their land and homes could be obtained cheaply and to keep the naysayers at bay for as long as possible).
Good government leaders would be sure the entire plan was available to their constituency so that an open honest public debate might occur. (Yeh! Yeh! I know in my dreams!)
I do want to get to Greenways, but the planners and the schemers on this concept of Southern Washington County included, as I mentioned above, the Washington County Commissioners, the Governor, the US Department of Interior, AND, Patrick Noonan of the Conservation Fund/Richard King Mellon Foundation (with guidance from James Rouse), unnamed developers for the Convention Center/Second homes, and serving as their “white hat” dupes Civil War Preservationists who saw this type of economic tourist development as preferable to allowing their neighbors to live quiet lives unmolested by government and developer planners and schemers of the ruling class.
Now to Greenways (new readers, first read my post,here, about how Rail-trails are part of the Greenway plan)
Just guess who was planning for Maryland to be the Greenway model of America?—The Conservation Fund with Patrick Noonan at its helm. They said they would make Maryland the Greenway capital of the nation and Governor Schaefer gave them a contract and said go for it!
The Governor also set up a Greenways Commission.
What follows are some nuggets that I had highlighted in those documents I received through a Public Information Act request twenty two years ago that will give you some idea of the PLAN . As you read these, please do it from the perspective of the property owner who will lose his privacy, his right to the peaceful enjoyment of his property and possibly will even lose his property outright.
First, control the message! Don’t let the public know too much!
Letter from Torrey Brown, Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources to Patrick Noonan of the Conservation Fund, July 5, 1989 in which Brown gives $50,000 to the Conservation Fund/Richard King Mellon Foundation to begin planning Maryland Greenways:
….we appreciate the Fund’s concern about ill-timed or misleading publicity about the greenways program and agree that all public relations materials, outside inquiries, and lines to the press be coordinated with the Fund. [Readers! Think about this! The news would be controlled by a non-profit contractor to the State of Maryland!—ed]
Greenway standards to function as justification for zoning and regulation!
Internal memo on Conservation Fund letterhead, September 28,1989 in which participants discuss standards for Greenways:
At the local level, these standards could function as the justification for zoning and subdivision regulations which would implement the Greenway Idea through development performance standards, setbacks, set-asides, etc.
Criteria will enable state and local officials to assess and compare individual tracts of land for potential acquisition or other forms of protection.
Bring in the developers (the ones we like!)
Conservation Fund Internal memo shared with DNR Program Open Space, October 17, 1989:
Pat [Noonan] will handle the governor (through Gil Grosvenor) as well as Ted Peck and/or Rouse (developers).
Memo from then head of the MD Department of Natural Resources, Torrey Brown, to Gov. Schaefer to update the governor on the Greenways project, October 25, 1989:
Private developers are very interested in working jointly with us on the project, and discussions are on-going as to how such a relationship could be entered into which would mutually benefit all concerned. [I wrote a note in the margin in 1990 on this document, “except the poor suckers who will lose their land.”]
Minutes of Maryland Greenways Commission March 5, 1990:
Mr. Noonan stated that one of the concerns that face the State and the nation is growth and how to manage it. More people are banding together to preserve more open space. Greenways are an excellent vehicle for conservationists and developers to work together to develop some standards and criteria for quality development.
The third committee, chaired by Mr. Mayer, will explore how entrepreneurs have made a profit from greenways and get examples….will look at greenways as an opportunity for businesses, not necessarily as philanthropy.
Greenways Commission minutes March 19,1990:
The committee is also interested in the potential for greenway-related development, some of it within the greenways, for generating both revenue for the program and private-sector commercial opportunities.
Then they discuss some ‘cons’ regarding greenways:
….there is a negative feeling regarding greenways because it is regarded in some areas (Antietam) as a takings issue.
Make no mistake, this is not about preservation! I thought it especially amusing that the following conversation was happening at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation on Oct. 16, 1989 (participants included representatives of the Conservation Fund, DNR, Maryland Historical Trust, Office of Tourism, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation):
How do we combine state and development interests?
How can greenways be sold to developers?
Since there are user and commercial development aspects to greenways, we will have to be prepared to take flack from preservationists.
Abandoned railway lines are Greenway development projects:
Greenways Commission minutes April 2, 1990:
Torrey Brown also reported that they are working with several railroads on abandoned rights-of-way.
Each county should be challenged to have a Greenways project ongoing or completed within a year.
The state of Maryland (DNR) secretly purchased the Weverton-Roxbury abandoned rail road line in the fall of 1991—not far off schedule according to the cronies who sought to pull one over on the lowly local folks. But, oops! 20 years have come and gone and what do you know, still no trail.
4th of July addendum
The Heritage Foundation has a good piece today about the Declaration of Independence and this might be a good time for our elected officials to consider its meaning. (emphasis mine)
… in fact the Declaration is more than a litany of complaints. Its greater meaning is as a statement of the conditions of legitimate political authority and the proper ends of government. It proclaimed that political rule would, from then on, reside in the sovereignty of the people. “If the American Revolution had produced nothing but the Declaration of Independence,” wrote the great historian Samuel Eliot Morrison, “it would have been worthwhile.”
The ringing phrases of the document’s famous second paragraph are a powerful synthesis of American constitutional and republican government theories. All men have a right to liberty as they are by nature equal, which is to say none are inherently superior and deserve to rule or inferior and deserve to be ruled.
Because all are endowed with these rights, the rights are unalienable, which means that they cannot be given up or taken away. And because individuals equally possess these rights, governments derive their just powers from the consent of those governed. Government’s purpose is to secure these fundamental rights…..
And, not to build biking playgrounds, or stadiums for that matter!