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Two local county parks among those that may be sold by state

Chris Patterson

(11/25/2004) Two Thurmont area state park properties are being marked for sale by the Department of Natural Resources under a plan by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich (R) to save expenses and raise funds for the state.

But despite the small amount of acreage involved in the northern Frederick County area, some said this week they are concerned about the potential sale.

One of the Thurmont area properties possibly up for sale - the 4.4-acre Frank Bentz Pond - is no surprise to town residents, who are actively seeking to acquire the pond.

The pond is considered an important part of the town's identity, and Thurmont's mayor and board of commissioners are working to accept responsibility for it after its failing dam is repaired. There are no plans for the town to pay the state for the pond, however.

The proposed sale of 26.8 acres of Cunningham Falls State Park has surprised others in the area. The park counts nearly 5,000 acres in its borders. Elizabeth Prongas, founder of the New Forest Society, said this week that she is deeply concerned about the sale of the parkland, even though it represents a small fraction of the park's land.

"I just feel that it would be a mistake to let any forest land go because once it's gone it's just gone forever," she said. "Our forest areas are being depleted all over the country and every little place we can save is important."

Prongas said she did not think selling the land would save much money, if any. She believes there must be careful thought and weighing of facts without confrontation before making such an important decision.

Acting independently of her position with the New Forest Society, which is not a political organization, Prongas said she plans to communicate her concerns with the governor's office once she has completed her research on the matter, she said.

Mayor Martin Burns of Thurmont has a similar concern about losing parkland. "To the best of my knowledge, God only made so much land, and so... it would concern anyone that they are selling off some of it," he said Tuesday.

He also has concerns about how the land would be used once sold. A low-growth proponent, Burns said he wants to know if the land will be used for development.

Cunningham Falls State Park was created in 1954 when roughly 10,000 acres were divided between the national park Catoctin Mountain Park and Cunningham Falls. The park is known most for its 78-foot waterfall about a half-mile from the lake in the William Houck Recreation Area. The lake is also a popular summer destination for families, swimmers and fishers.

Information cited on the Maryland Department of the Environment's Web site indicates the 26.8 acres in the park's 4,944 acres was chosen for possible sale because the location of the acreage is isolated, making management difficult. In addition, the land was reportedly considered to have minimal natural resources value.

The land earmarked for potential sale is located between U.S. Route 15 and Md. Route 806 south of Thurmont, according to the Web site.

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