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Votes

Preserving Beauty for $5 Million

Planning Board approves County's intentions to purchase Callithea Farm.

While some issues remain to be ironed out, the County declared its intention to preserve the beauty and history of Callithea Farm with $5 million.

"The Master Plan said to acquire it because it is believed to be a property worthy of open space preservation," said Bill Gries, of Park Development. "The idea was to acquire the park, preserve the open space and protect the operating equestrian center."

Callithea Farm, approximately five miles past the Village on River Road, adjoins Blockhouse Point Park on the east and south and the C&O Canal National Historical Park on the west.

"Nestled among these pristine areas the farm presents the opportunity to complete and protect a unique ecosystem of roughly 2,000 acres," said David Tobin, head of Friends of Callithea Farm, Inc., in testimony before the Planning Board.

APPROXIMATELY 60 HORSES are boarded at Callithea Farm, a private equestrian center, which will become a public county facility following purchase of the 92.74 acres along River Road.

"As a horseman, the farm and the canal it provides access to gives an experience that rivals … the beauty and solitude and connection with history that I experienced spending 10 years in the southwest," said Tobin.

The goal of Friends of Callithea Farm is to maintain and manage the natural and equestrian resources of the farm in perpetuity as a public resource for equestrian and other outdoor activities compatible with its historic uses and ecological importance.

"It represents in many respects the culmination of almost five years of work of many people,” Tobin said. “My interest in this has been motivated in the beginning by the historic and cultural and physical beauty of that place. It provides me — and now will provide the public — with an opportunity to experience a level of beauty and quiet and connection with an important part of the county's history."

THE COUNTY HOPES to settle on the first parcel on Dec. 15 and to purchase four equal installments in July of the next four fiscal years.

"I think the county's decision deserves public accolades. This is very bold and probably unprecedented,” said Tobin.

Gries said the county has a contract to acquire the property for $5 million, $1 million each year for the next five years. The equestrian facility will continue to operate as it being operated now, said Gries.

"We're going to apply for money under Maryland Program Open Space," said Gries. The program provides money from the state to local municipalities for acquisition and development of park and open space.

The Planning Board voted unanimously last Thursday, Nov. 14 to support the acquisition.

"It speaks for itself. It is a very important property that is a significant purchase and will add greatly to our parkland," said Planning Board commissioner Meredith Wellington.