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From the Desk of Mark Long
Candidate for County Council District 5

On protecting the beauty of Frederick County

(6/1) From a very early age, I developed a love for the mountains, forests and nearby park lands. Weíre very fortunate to have Catoctin Mountain National Park, as well as Cunningham State Park in our back yard. My extended family, the Longs, the Keilholtzí and the Greens, took hikes together in the mountains to places like Chimney Rock, Wolf Rock, Catoctin Vista and Cunningham Falls. These were great occasions to enjoy the forest scenery, get some exercise in the out of doors, as well as enjoy the company of family.

I also loved to go hunting for morel mushrooms with my family. My motherís father, Sam Pryor who founded Pryorís orchard in Thurmont, on at least one occasion took me out of school so we could hunt morel mushrooms. This was a very special treat! My grandfather knew of many special places where he knew morels could be found. When we would get near his "secret" spot where he thought mushrooms should be, he would wave his walking stick like a "magic wand" and mushrooms would magically appear. He helped instill in me an appreciation and sense of wonder for nature, and to this day, one of my greatest joys is just walking through the forests, along the streams and enjoying the solitude of nature. Itís refreshing and restorative for me.

When I was 13, my family toured and camped around the country for a month. We visited many of the well known National Parks and monuments during that journey, such as the Smoky Mountains, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Yosemite, Sequoia, Yellowstone, Badlands and others. This was an enriching experience and one of the most memorable times of my childhood. Our National Park system is one of the true treasures of our great country. Itís something that everyone should be proud of. We should all be thankful for the foresight of the visionaries that realized the value of preserving portions of our land in their natural state for the enjoyment of future generations. These areas help connect us to the land and ground us, as well as give us perspective as human beings. They are good for our soul.

And as important as it is to preserve areas in their natural state as we do with our parks, I think itís also important to protect our environment and natural resources as a whole. Our planet sustains us and we have only one planet to live on and utilize. We should respect it and care for all of it, so it continues to provide for our needs and provide us with a good home. Itís important to take responsible measures to ensure that our streams and rivers remain clear and healthy so that they can continue to provide us with healthy drinking water, as well as venues for fishing and other recreation. By responsibly managing rain runoff and caring for our local waterways, we also keep our Maryland gem, the Chesapeake Bay, in good health. Most everyone enjoys Maryland crabs, oysters and other sea foods and to continue to have these products available, we must protect the valuable resource that allows them to thrive.

We have another great resource that I think itís important to protect, our farms. Locally, this includes dairy, beef, alpaca, sheep, goat, equine, vegetable and aqua cultural farms, as well as orchards and wineries, and more. Frederick County has the largest number of farms and more acreage is covered with our farms, than any other county in our state. Our county ranks #1 in the state in the number of organic farms, demonstrating a strong local commitment to growing green products. Our agricultural industry is vital to our countyís economic health.

We can continue to protect our farms and preserve our rural heritage by responsibly managing our residential growth, planning it so that it occurs near our existing towns and traditional growth centers. Of course, we can also help our farmers by supporting them with our business and buying locally. Nothing tastes better than local produce and this also helps our local economy. While the primary purpose of farms isnít to provide us with visual enjoyment, I, for one, do enjoy looking out across the green open vistas that farms provide. Like our National Parks, I believe that open spaces are good for our soul and well being, and enrich us as a community.

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