The Garrett County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved the sale of three privately owned parcels of land totaling more than 600 acres to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. According to law, state acquisitions over 100 acres require the approval of the commissioners, explained DNR western region program administrator John Braskey, land and acquisition and planning.
Located on Backbone Mountain beside Potomac State Forest land, the first property is a 315-acre tract currently owned by Mountain Maryland Minerals LLC/Thomas Moran. The tentative purchase price is $615,000.
The second property is located along Pea Patch Lane. Owned by Robert Rounds, this site is 106 acres of farmland that is surrounded by the Savage River State Forest. The proposed price is $405,000.
The third tract, owned by Gerard Kursvietis, is 181 acres and is located in the Spring Lick Run area of Savage River State Forest. Braskey said this property is still under negotiations.
“All of these properties would be open, of course, to the public,” he said. “All these properties would increase hunting opportunities in Garrett County. They will be managed like our other properties.”
He added that Rounds’ property is near a wildlands, but has been assured by Forest Service officials that the site will not become a wildlands.
Commissioner Bob Gatto asked if the state approaches landowners about purchasing their properties.
“I don’t go out and try to solicit any properties,” Braskey said. “One other thing, the Department of Natural Resources does not do condemnation, eminent domain. We only buy from willing sellers.”
He estimated that 95 percent of the acquisitors are initiated by real estate agents, land managers, or the property owners themselves. Braskey added that the state is often the only party interested in purchasing the properties. He noted that the state tries to get the mineral rights to the properties that it purchases.
Braskey is a former Garrett County commissioner and was instrumental in getting the state law passed in the 1980s that requires the commissioners’ approval of DNR acquisitions over 100 acres. He said the law also applies in Allegany County.
More than 86,500 acres, or 18 percent, of Garrett County land is now owned by the state. Commissioner Jim Raley indicated this is the highest percentage of all Maryland counties.
“These properties are being purchased with POS (Program Open Space) funds, which gives certain rights for the properties being open to public use,” he said about the Moran, Rounds, and Kursvietis lands.
He indicated, however, he has concerns about how accessible those properties will actually be to the public.
“They say they are going to be free access to everybody – they’re free access with a whole set of rules and regulations that come down, that sometimes change in the future,” Raley said. “That’s been part of my frustration, of finding that limited access sometimes does take place.”
He said he has several specific examples of this problem that he plans to share with the DNR secretary, John Griffin. The commissioners will meet with Griffin on April 12 in Annapolis to discuss a variety of issues.
The commissioners’ next public session is scheduled for Tuesday, April 16, at 4 p.m. at the courthouse.