In a move that meshes with some local leaders' efforts to stimulate historical tourism in the region, Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) last week announced the creation of the Southern Maryland Heritage Area.

The designation, the ninth in the state, was made by the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority. Recognized areas are eligible for state grants to help pay for the development of management plans to make the region's historical and cultural sites tourist destinations.

The action "is an acknowledgment that this special area in Maryland has unique potential for significant economic development through heritage tourism," Glendening said in a statement announcing the designation. "The Southern Maryland Heritage Area will ensure the preservation of the historical, cultural and natural assets in the area like Historic St. Mary's City, the Calvert Marine Museum and the Port Tobacco Historic District."

To become eligible for a full range of financial and technical assistance, the tri-county area must win designation as a "certified" heritage area. The program is coordinated through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

Travel industry statistics show that heritage travel is one of the fastest-growing types of tourism. According to the Travel Industry Association of America, nearly 54 million adults visited a historic site or museum within the last year. Such tourists tend to spend more time and money at their destinations than other travelers, association figures show.

Public Input Sought on Library Site

St. Mary's County Commissioners will hold a public forum next week to allow county residents to comment on the two final choices for a new site for the Lexington Park Library.

The commissioners are considering a three-acre private site across the street from the Lexington Park Elementary School on Shangri-la Drive, and another county-owned site within Nicolet Park.

"I'm delighted the public is going to have a chance to comment," said Fred Powledge, chairman of the St. Mary's Library Board of Trustees. An advisory committee had voted for the Nicolet Park site, because it already is owned by the county and wouldn't require taking property off tax rolls.

But in most recent deliberations, the commissioners narrowed their choices to include the Gabrelcik property near the elementary school.

County Commissioner President Julie B. Randall (D-Lexington Park) asked her colleagues Tuesday to consider holding a public forum on the final choices next week, then take a vote the following week.

In May, the county commissioners appropriated $3.5 million in the county's capital budget for construction of a new library for Lexington Park, the county's smallest but busiest library. The commissioners have been in private negotiations to purchase the Gabrelcik property, and securing road access at the Nicolet Park site. These negotiations will be completed next week, Randall said.

Randall said the forum will allow the public to make an "apples-to-apples comparison of the two sites" before the commissioners make the final decision. The forum is expected to be placed on next week's agenda.

Who You Gonna Call?

Calvert County is getting a new animal control officer in its sheriff's department and Commissioner Barbara A. Stinnett (D-At Large) suggested this week that a new telephone number might be in order.

"Maybe we could get one of those special dedicated lines, something that's catchy and easy to remember," Stinnett said.

"Like 535-PUPPY?" asked her colleague, Commissioner Patrick M. Buehler (D-St. Leonard).

"More like 535-MADDOG," shot back Commissioner David F. Hale (R-Owings).