The latest master plan for Patuxent River Park in Prince George's County, proposed after six years of controversy and about 40 meetings with local citizens, calls for no addition to the existing park and limits access and development on the present park land.
A public briefing on the new master plan was held recently by the Prince George's planning board, which expects to hold a public hearing within the next two months.
Under the proposal, the riverfront parkland now owned by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, totaling about 5,000 acres, could be enlarged, but only if landowners are "willing sellers" and if state funds are available to purchase the land.
The controversial park boundary line proposed in the 1976 master plan has been scrapped because of complaints from owners of land along the river. Also eliminated is the proposed hiking trail that would have followed the Patuxent for 55 miles as it winds through the county.
The boundary proposed in 1976 would have created a 22,000-acre park and included virtually all along the Patuxent in Prince George's County. Montgomery and Howard counties already have bought almost all land along the river in their counties and Anne Arundel County is currently considering creation of a 7,000-acre park along its Patuxent banks.
"I don't see how anyone can oppose the (Patuxent) plan now. It is fair to people who live there and fair to people who come there," said Diane McClary, one of two dozens residents at the public briefing.
McClary, a deputy sheriff in the county, whose "house was to be turned into a ballpark in the 1976 master plan," is president of the Patuxent River Civic Association and a member of the citizen advisory committee that has worked with park planners on the new master plan for the past four years.
Viola Lee, whose family has worked a farm on the Patuxent for four generations and strongly opposed the 1976 plans for the park, said last week, "I think this is an acceptable plan." It also was praised by other landowners who were outspokenly against the earlier park plans.
The citizen advisory committee and several residents expressed concern, however, that existing zoning regulations allow exceptions to the present open-space zone along the river, which requires that houses be built on lots of at least five acres.
The committee has recommended that any exceptions to the minimum lot size "be carefully reviewed" to prevent "degradation of the natural, historical or scenic character of the river."
One committee member, Harriet Hunter, retired Walter Reed Army Hospital employe who lives year round in the summer community of Eagle Harbor near Chalk Point, said she supports the new master plan "but I would like to see a little more teeth in it. 2 don't think we're giving the river enough protection."
While opposing any boundary or single large park, the citizen's advisory committee uges the county to buy any land offered for sale along the river. A total of 21 parcels of park land, in 11 major segments are now owned by the park and planning commission along the river. However, only the 2,000-acre Jug Bay Natural Area is used frequently by the public having had about 50,000 visitors last year, according to park director Richard Dolesh.
Access to the Patuxent parkland is limited, with advance registration required of all groups and campers and one-day special use permits required for fishing, hiking or horseback riding.
Dates for the public hearing on the master plan wil be scheduled in the next few weeks. Limited copies of the master plan are available by calling the park and planning commission at 699-2525.