Fred L. Eskew, 48, assistant secretary for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, died of cancer April 29 at Anne Arundel General Hospital in Annapolis.

Mr. Eskew also was the first director of Maryland's open space program, a state effort to help local communities acquire park land, and he was a specialist on laws relating to parks and open space. He was president of the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association and was instrumental in the establishment of a program under which state-owned parks in Maryland are operated by private organizations in a concession arrangement.

A resident of Arnold, Md., Mr. Eskew was born in Washington and graduated from St. John's College High School and the University of Maryland. He did graduate work in recreation and parks administration at the University of Colorado.

Before joining the Maryland Department of Natural Resources three years ago, he had worked for the Prince George's County Recreation Department, the Charles County Department of Parks, and the Maryland Department of Forests and Parks.

His marriage to Margaret Smith Eskew ended in divorce.

Survivors include two sons, Fred Jr., of Brandywine, and Joseph, of Arlington; two daughters, Denise Eskew of Washington and Mary Catherine Eskew of Waldorf, Md.; his parents, William R. and Mary Eskew of Arnold, and one brother, William R. Eskew Jr. of Columbia, Md.