Gov. Parris N. Glendening says decision time is near for what to do with the 2,250-acre Chapman Forest tract in western Charles County.

Glendening (D) last year spent $25 million in state funds to buy most of the tract, which includes the historic Mount Aventine estate, in order to head off a major housing development.

Now, the governor says, a public planning process "should be initiated as soon as possible."

"I propose that, with the exception of the Mount Aventine historic area, the property should be managed in a manner that places a special emphasis on its natural significance," Glendening said in an Aug. 23 letter to Charles County Board of Commissioners President Murray D. Levy (D-At Large).

Glendening said most of the property should be maintained "as a natural extension" of the adjacent state-managed Mattawoman Natural Environmental Area.

"We can then focus on what public uses are appropriate for the balance of the property," Glendening wrote.

Some Charles County officials have recently suggested that room be found on the former Chapman's Landing development tract for athletic fields needed by the county's burgeoning youth population.

The idea is opposed by residents who identify the property as a unique natural treasure because it offers so many acres of mature and contiguous forest.

Old Newsletter Draws Fire

The town of La Plata emerged from Monday's meeting of the Charles County commissioners with $127,000 in county funds to help build a sidewalk beside Washington Avenue.

But along with the money came one tiny bit of friction.

Commissioner Marland Deen (R-Waldorf) had a few words directed at La Plata Mayor William F. Eckman, whose job is nonpartisan.

"I personally hope the next [town] newsletter has something about this decision and the spirit of cooperation, which he doesn't seem to recognize," Deen told Town Manager Doug Miller. Miller represented La Plata at the meeting, which Eckman did not attend.

Speaking after the meeting, Deen said he had taken umbrage at comments in the town newsletter last year. The publication urged residents, when they next voted, to remember that county commissioners had declined to increase the break that town residents get on the county property tax.

Residents of Charles County's two incorporated towns--La Plata and Indian Head--pay a reduced county property tax rate because their governments perform some functions of county government, such as policing and planning. The magnitude of that reduction is often an issue between the two levels of government, with town officials typically agitating for a bigger break.

Eckman expressed surprise at Deen's comments, and said he long had supported the commissioner.

"I thought we had patched up our differences," Eckman said.

The mayor said he welcomed the sidewalk funding.

The project has been planned for more than a decade, with cost a major reason for the delay. Miller, the town manager, said work could begin as soon as the town acquires rights of way through three properties.

The sidewalk is to run along the east side of Washington Avenue, from the Charles County Court House to Hawthorne Drive. The total cost is estimated at $254,815.

A World Series in Calvert?

It will cost at least $116,000 to spruce up a Cove Point baseball field so that Calvert County can vie for the opportunity to host the 2000 Babe Ruth World Series for 12-year-olds, organizers told Calvert commissioners this week.

Officials from Babe Ruth League Inc. will visit the county for three days in late September to inspect the Cove Point site and review plans for improving the field and producing the series, said Bill Burns, president of the Solomons Youth Baseball Optimists of Lusby.

Burns said local organizers need $50,000 from the county and would raise the remaining $66,000 through private sponsors. Organizers would have to grow grass on one of the Cove Point fields, rent bleachers, build a dugout and install a scoreboard, among other improvements.

If the county is selected as the host by Babe Ruth League Inc., the series could draw 3,000 visitors to the county for 10 days and pump as much as $2 million into the local economy, said Richard Fischer, president of the Calvert County Chamber of Commerce.

The commissioners asked organizers to return in two weeks with more details and sounded supportive. "That's a 10 percent investment and a 90 percent return," said Commissioner Barbara A. Stinnett (D-At Large). "That's a pretty good return."