With a sweeping view of unspoiled marsh, river and shoreline, the Meloy farm is arguably the most spectacular spot in Prince George's County -- and it is public property, bought last fall with $5 million in county and state funds.

The county is spending more than $100,000 to furnish and refurbish a Colonial-era brick manor house on the property as a meeting place for high-ranking county officials and to entertain corporate executives considering moving their firms to Prince George's.

"I call it a think tank for department head meetings, sessions and receptions for corporate presidents and executives who would like to locate in the county," said Robert M. Arciprete, in charge of land acquisition for the Prince George's park agency. "It is a nice place for these get-togethers to be held outside of the normal government environment.

"The views are absolutely tremendous. It's hard to believe you're in Prince George's County with that kind of vista."

The house overlooking the Patuxent River, four miles from the county seat of Upper Marlboro, has been furnished with antique reproductions, oil paintings and Oriental rugs. An upstairs bedroom is being furnished with two single beds for occasional overnight guests.

County park workers have been painting the interior, installing new kitchen cabinets, appliances, shelves, carpeting and ceiling fans. An electronic security system has been installed. The manor house, known as Billingsley, is one of the oldest standing structures in the county.

County and state officials say the property was acquired from retired Circuit Court Judge Samuel W.H. Meloy and his wife, Frances, as part of an effort to save the Patuxent River shores from development, an effort that has already brought thousands of acres into public ownership.

The tract was acquired by the state, which was willing to pay $3.7 million, according to Mike Nelson, assistant secretary for capital programs of the Department of Natural Resources. The county came up with $1.3 million, and the purchase was approved by the state Board of Public Works.

The state and county obtained four different appraisals for the property: $2.6 million, $3 million, $3.6 million and $6.7 million.

"Quite often, the value of property to a public agency exceeds its appraised value," Nelson said. "It's hard to quantify how valuable that property is to Patuxent River watershed preservation."

For a dollar a year, the state leased the property to the Prince George's County park agency "only for the purpose of developing and operating a recreation area open to the general public," according to the lease.

The lease, signed in February, requires the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission to develop and submit within a year a final plan for the site's public use. Then, the agency must make good faith efforts to get the financing approved for these improvements. There is no timetable for when the property must be open to the public. But the park commission has tentatively budgeted $300,000 annually during the next five years for the improvements.

Whether the agency would receive the $1.5 million it says it wants to spend on the property in coming years would depend on its still-unformulated plans, said County Executive Parris Glendening. "There should be some public input as well," he said.

The county executive and council must pass the park agency's annual budgets, but otherwise the agency operates with broad independent powers.

A preliminary plan envisions the manor house as a museum, surrounded by a period herb garden. Elsewhere on the grounds would be pasture for livestock, a pumpkin- and watermelon-patch for children, boardwalks through the marsh, a tour boat landing, a canoe launch, administrative offices, an observation tower and a picnic area.

"It would be more or less historic farm activity, where kids can come and see what farming was and is like," said Arciprete. Until then, he said, the land will continue to be leased for private farming, and the grounds may also be used by the Marlboro Hunt Club, whose riverfront clubhouse is nearby.

Robert and Maggie Slicker, who live on a 160-acre farm and operate a nursery at the entrance to Green Landing Road, are concerned about public use of the property. "Going straight through the middle of our lifestyle here is a little bit rough," he said. "We seem to have a nice little nook back here. I hope the park {agency} plans to keep it that way."

Arciprete said he has several ideas for alternative access, including by boat from another park-owned property down-river.

The original land grant dates to 1662, when John Billingsley received 700 acres for transporting 14 servants to the colony in 1650. James Hollyday, chief justice of the Prince George's County court, bought the land in 1687. He built the manor house in 1692 and lived there until his death in 1703.

Meloy's father acquired the property in 1917. Samuel Meloy and his wife, Frances, acquired most of it -- 260.3 acres of dry land and 170 acres of marsh -- in 1946. Meloy's brother owns the rest of the original 17th century tract.

With 3.5 miles of riverfront, much of the property cannot be developed under Maryland's Chesapeake Bay critical areas law, which limits building within 1,000 feet of the shoreline. "It would've been worth a lot more if it could be developed," Samuel Meloy said.

Meloy said $5 million was close to his asking price, "and they wanted it and we decided {the sale} is in the best interest of the family and the state."

Added Frances Meloy, "It certainly will be a lovely place to take visiting dignitaries. We've had many a lovely day there and I'm sure they will too."