Anita C. Leight Estuary Center Expansion

In 2001, the Harford Land Trust protected 32 acres of woods, wetlands and waterfront surrounding Harford County’s Anita C. Leight Estuary Center to enhance and protect the watershed and to assist in the mission of the Estuary Center.

An Estuarine Sanctuary: Anita C. Leight Estuary Center Expansion

On July 16, 2001 the Harford Land Trust completed its purchase of 32 acres of woods, wetlands and waterfront surrounding Harford County's Anita C. Leight Estuary Center on Otter Point Creek near Abingdon.

Funding the Future
 
The Trust paid $650,000 to the Victor B. Hirshauer Trust for the property and Harford County's Department of Parks & Recreation took immediate possession of it. The transaction was one of the most ambitious projects of the Harford Land Trust.
 
The property, which lies along Otter Point Road, is within the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area but was zoned R2, R3 and B3. The seller had rejected a development company's offer of $700,000 for it. The Harford County government wanted to purchase the property but did not have the funds. The Trust agreed to negotiate the purchase and raise the money if the county could pay it back within three years.
 
The seller agreed to work with the Trust and set the price at $650,000. The Abell Foundation loan's interest-free loan enabled HLT to settle right away. Four months later, Harford County received a grant of $300,00 from Maryland Program Open Space earmarked for the purchase. Also six months later, with Board of Public Works approval, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) made a matching grant of $300,000 to Program Open Space for the purchase.
 

area photo
photo: Harford County Division of Information Systems
HLT's acquisition of the Otter Creek property is significant to the county, state and federal agencies involoved in the complexities of its financing. It surrounds the Anita C. Leight Estuary Center, a 61-acre facility of the Harford County Department of Parks & Recreation. The county has owned this property since 1982 when the now late W. Arnold Rosenberger and his sister, the late Anita C. Leight, donated their land with a residence. The educational and research program launched therein 1995 has since served more than 27,000 persons.

A Coveted Sanctuary

The Leight Estuary Center is contiguous to a 260-acre "National Estuarine Research Reserve" which is one of four National Estuarine Sanctuaries established by NOAA in Maryland's portion of Chesapeake Bay.
 
The area is contiguous to the Izaak Walton League's Melvin G. Bosely Conservancy of 350 acres at the mouth of Winter's Run and Otter Point Creek. All of these properties together total more than 700 acres of contiguous land and water now preserved along the Bush River.
 
The seller of the acquisition, the Victor B. Hirshauer Revocable Trust, had owned most of the land since 1931. For members of the Hirshauer family in the '30s and '40s it was a place for outdoor recreation. Since the '50s two modest residences on the property had been rented. HLT's pre-aquisition labors included planning and financing, demolition and complete cleaning of the site of all of the dilapidated houses.

A Team Effort 

This acquisition would not have been possible without the help of several key players, including HLT's lawyer for this transaction,  Daniele M. Creager of the Bel Air office of Hodes, Ulman, Pessin & Katz, P.A.. HLT's land surveyor for this project was Edwin O. Weaver of Bel Air. Invaluable contacts in the Maryland Department of Natural Resources during the negotiations have been Sandra Trent and Bernard Wentker of Program Open Space and Carol Towle, manager of DNR's Research Reserve Program. Federated Environment Associates, Inc. of Baltimore City performed the Phase One Environmental Assessment of the property for the Trust, for whom it has done assessments in the past. Finally, HLT's executive director David Miller brought everything together.