Montgomery County is set to purchase 136 of forest and farm fields in Damascus to be added to the Bennett Creek Conservation Park in Damascus. The Montgomery County Planning Board approved the purchase of the land at a meeting last Thursday, July 23.
The Planning Board unanimously approved the purchase of 136.4 acres of land from the Day family for slightly less than $1.5 million to be funded through the Legacy Open Space CIP with County General Obligation Bonds.
According to a Montgomery County Department of Parks memo, the Day properties include one parcel with approximately 133 acres of land in forest and agricultural production, and an additional small parcel of 3.6 acres of open field and an old farmhouse along Ridge Road (Rt. 27). The land is located immediately South of the recently acquired Snow Properties west of Ridge Road, the initial acquisition for Bennett Creek Conservation Park.
The two parcels make up the total property. The first is 3.6 acres located along to Ridge Road contains the farmhouse. It is currently owned by Barbara J. Day and James Kent MacKendree Day, who is a Trustee of the James Kent Day 2000 Irrevocable Trust. The County will purchase this plot for $275,000.
The second, larger parcel is 132.9 acres of unimproved land owned by the James Kent Day 2000 Irrevocable Trust and the William J. Day, Jr. 1998 Irrevocable Trust. The County will purchase this plot for $1,195,888.50.
“A little over six months ago, we acquired the Snow properties to the north of this property,” Brenda Sandberg, Legacy Open Space Program Manager, told the Board at last week’s meeting. “Between the two properties, consisting of mostly forests, farm fields, and stream valleys, we now have a 390-acre new conservation park to serve the resource based recreation needs of Damascus and the neighboring areas of Clarksburg.
In October, the Planning Board approved the purchase of the 260 acres of land in Damascus from Margaret T. Snow for the purchase price of $2,659,805, which was also funded through the Legacy Open Space CIP with County General Obligation Bonds.
The Legacy Open Space initiative identifies open space lands that should be acquired and interpreted because of exceptional natural or cultural value to current and future generations of Montgomery County residents. Legacy Open Space will acquire or obtain easements or make fee-simple purchases on open-space lands of countywide significance. Priorities are updated during each CIP cycle but remain flexible to allow the Montgomery County Planning Board to address development threats and joint funding opportunities. The County Council encourages the Commission to seek supplemental appropriations if approved CIP funding is insufficient.
“The Day properties acquisition is key to implementing the vision for Bennett Creek Conservation Park to form a rural, green buffer and provide recreation opportunities for the residents of Damascus,” said the parks department memo.
One of the reasons this site was important to the eventual creation of the Bennett Creek Conservation Park is it provides access to the park from Ridge Road for park users and maintenance operations closer to the center of Damascus, and improves the opportunities for the natural surface trail network through the conservation park, according to the parks department memo to the Planning Board.
“We also have the potential for small additional acreage to occur in the future through dedication, through some development and perhaps some much smaller acquisitions to try to make the connectivity for trails and other recreational access to this park,” Sandberg told the Planning Board.
According to the memo, there is currently a farmhouse and outbuildings along Ridge Road. This property was not identified for historic designation in the April 2009 Approved and Adopted Damascus-Goshen Historic Resources Amendment to the Master Plan for Historic Preservation in Montgomery County.
The memo states that the buildings appear to be in a fair to good state of repair, and the house is currently occupied by tenants. Much of the interior and exterior architectural character maintains intact, contributing to the farming character of the Damascus community. However, a final decision as to whether the house will remain or not has not been made by staff.
Maps courtesy Montgomery County Planning Board