Gertrude Parks Property

In 2002, the HLT acquired 45 acres of varied land near Otter Creek Woods.

Land Purchase to Preserve Farmland

On July 15, 2002 the Harford Land Trust board of Directors signed a contract with Gertrude E. Parks of Edgewood and the Gertrude E. Parks Charitable Trust to purchase her 45 acres of farmland, woodland and wetland adjacent to Otter Creek and the 350-acre Bosley Conservancy there owned by the Harford County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America. Settlement occurred later that year.

This property, which also is adjacent to Willoughby Beach Road, contains the best agricultural soils in Harford County (Sassafras sandy loam) which means the best farm soil in Maryland. Its location in the Coastal Plain gives this farmland a two-week advantage in planting crops.

Peter A. Jay, the Trust’s president, noted , “This is our first purchase with the primary goal of farmland preservation, and its conservation value is greater because of its proximity to the Bush River, the Izaak Walton League property, the National Estuarine Sanctuary’s 250 acres, and the Leight Estuary Center’s 93 acres across the river.”

Although the Trust had originally planned to sell the land to an area farmer (after attaching a perpetual conservation easement to it), the land was ultimately sold to the Harford County Department of Parks and Recreation using funds from Maryland’s Program Open Space.

The property has many interesting attributes. Although part is designated as a Resource Conservation Area by the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission, the property is zoned R-2. So before the Trust stepped in, the 3.61-acre southern portion of the property would have been eligible for 12 dwelling units. The Harford Land Trust also owns 104 acres of woodland not far from Mrs. Parks’ property: the Otter Creek Woods, made possible by Bob Ward Companies in 1994.

For this project the Harford Land Trust used $225,000 from its Johnston N. Hegeman Land Fund, grants from private foundations, and an interest-bearing loan of $225,000 @ 4.5% from Forest Hill Bank. Forest Hill Bank was represented by Vicki A. Mentzer, vice president and also manager of its Jarrettsville branch. Gregory Szoka of Stark & Keenan, P.A. managed the settlement for Forest Hill Bank. Raymond G. Truitt of Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll LLP assisted the Trust with this acquisition. Gertrude Parks' pastor, the Reverend Paul Austin of Trinity Lutheran Church, Joppa, assisted her, as did Stanley Rose of Bowie and John Jay John of Forest Hill, financial representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church Foundation, the beneficiary of Mrs. Parks' charitable trust. The Maryland State Board of Public Works later approved $495,000 in Open Space funds to be paid to the Harford Land Trust for the property. The Open Space grant covered both the purchase price of the property and some of the Trust’s accompanying administrative and legal expenses.