Jay Fergusonjay@deepcreekvacations.com301-501-0420

New DNR secretary to visit region

Cumberland Times-News

MCHENRY — Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Josh Kurtz plans to visit Allegany and Garrett counties on Monday.

Kurtz has been acting secretary of the organization since Jan. 18, and became secretary on Feb. 17.

DNR Media Relations Manager Gregg Bortz on Sunday said the visit to the region does not include public events, and Kurtz will conduct internal meetings with area employees.

“He’s making an effort to do that around the state since taking office,” Bortz said via email and added that Kurtz will make time for a media interview.

‘Fight like h***’
A big question for the secretary surrounds the future of $4 million allocated last year by the Maryland General Assembly in DNR’s critical maintenance program for trail development along the state protected Wild Youghiogheny River.

The proposal has been opposed by numerous area property owners and elected officials who want the money to be used for other projects in Garrett County.

“I’m gonna fight like h***,” Sen. Mike McKay said on Sunday of working to keep the funds in Garrett County and added that he believes he has support from the governor’s office. “Right is right.”

In a letter to Kurtz last month, the Board of Garrett County Commissioners asked the state to abandon the trail proposal, and give them control of the money for other trail projects.

Friendsville’s mayor and town council also formally opposed the trail development.

“My goal (for) the Yough is to support what the community wants,” McKay said.

The money trail
The way the money made it into the budget, signed by Gov. Larry Hogan last year, was convoluted at best.

In September 2021, Hogan announced the creation of the Office of Outdoor Recreation, within DNR, and the hiring of J. Daryl Anthony to serve as its first executive director.

Records show that before the $4 million was allocated, meetings that included Anthony, then Del. Wendell Beitzel, and Garrett Trails were held to discuss funding for the development in the Wild Yough corridor.

Beitzel would later say he pushed for the financial allocation “to provide some economic opportunity and to provide more opportunities for outdoor recreation” for the area.

In January 2022, Anthony, in an email to Beitzel’s chief of staff, said, “While I have not asked for specific funding dedicated to the Yough Canyon Trail, I am very hopeful that funding will be available to support outdoor recreation opportunities … the Yough Canyon trail is a high priority for investment.”

In June, Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, who was DNR secretary at the time, said the appropriation was neither part of the department’s capital budget request nor the governor’s fiscal 2023 budget submission.

Now, legislators will again determine the fate of the funds.

“The General Assembly can move the money from one pot to another,” McKay said and added that he’s “been clear from day one” that he wants the cash to be used in Garrett County.

“I’m 100% sure there will be transparency going forward,” he said. “I can guarantee you that there won’t be any firm decisions that are made without (public) input.”

‘Preserve and protect’
John Bambacus, a former state senator and mayor of Frostburg, has been a leader of the community that opposes development of the Wild Yough.

On Sunday, he said Kurtz’s visit to the area is “extremely important” and talked of valuable resources, including state parks and forests in Garrett County.

Bambacus hopes Kurtz will follow a decision outlined in a 2014 letter written by then DNR Secretary Joseph Gill.

At that time, Gill responded to a letter from Beitzel and former Sen. George Edwards requesting to develop a segment of the Eastern Continental Divide Loop Trail through the Youghiogheny Scenic Corridor.

Gill rejected the idea because it would involve reconstruction of an old rail line and replacement of several bridges.

Environmental regulations would preclude such construction and flooding along the river, he wrote.

“The policy of the state is to preserve and protect the natural values of these rivers, enhance their water quality, and fulfill vital conservation purposes by wise use of resources within their surrounding environment,” Gill wrote. “We are unable to approve development of this area for numerous reasons.”

Teresa McMinn is a reporter for the Cumberland Times-News. She can be reached at 304-639-2371 or tmcminn@times-news.com.

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Jay Ferguson

Who I Am My name is Jay Ferguson, and I am a lifelong resident of the Deep Creek Lake area. I am also co-owner of the real estate side of Taylor Made. I have been in the real estate business for 21+ years now and I LOVE what I do! I have to say, my career really took off when I co-founded the real estate side of Taylor Made in 2014. Its been an amazing experience, building a real estate company from the ground up and achieving so much so quickly! In August 2016, we purchased Long & Foster Real Estate Deep Creek, where I had started my career in 2000. In 2018, we on-boarded virtually every agent from Coldwell Banker Deep Creek Realty as they closed up shop and the real estate family grew even more! We now have over 40 sales agents and have expanded to West Virginia and Pennsylvania, as well. Taylor Made is the #1 vacation rental company at Deep Creek with over 475 vacation rental homes, and over one hundred thousand yearly visitors. Its amazing what we have accomplished using the principles of honesty, teamwork and customer service! Personally, my wife Jessica and I enjoy traveling and especially spending time in the outdoors, hiking and exploring the many diverse areas that Garrett County is naturally blessed with. We have raised two wonderful children here, Kayleah (22) and Noah (13). In the summer, we love spending time on the water with friends & family and enjoying the lake life! We are both active in our church, our community & local school activities, and we fill our schedule with plenty of volunteer efforts. I currently serve on the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity. I am proud to say that I was named Deep Creek Time’s Favorite ‘Community Champion’ in 2019. I was also named Garrett County Realtor of the Year in 2018-19, as well. I really enjoy promoting my hometown. I am very proud of the resort area that has developed over my lifetime and look forward to growing the area even more! Deep Creek Lake has been described as ‘The Lake Tahoe of the east', and I think that speaks volumes about the potential to own property here! Deep Creek Lake isn't really a town or city by itself; it's comprised of three towns: Oakland, Swanton & McHenry, Maryland. I am very passionate about my hometown and am impressed with how many people know about it as we travel around the country. Deep Creek Lake is an amazing place to visit and even better place to live! During the pandemic in 2020, our market exploded and more and more people left their primary residence in the city to live here permanently. With distance learning in schools and tele-commuting becoming the ‘norm’, many more people were drawn to the area to ‘live where they love to play’. Why You Want Me Working for You: In addition to being an owner, I am consistently one of the top-producing agents in the entire area and the Associate Broker of record for Taylor-Made Deep Creek Vacations & Sales. I have 21+ years of experience and I am a problem solver. There aren’t many situations that I have not encountered and I have a strategy for almost every scenario that you may encounter. I have extensively trained in all areas of real estate & emerging technologies, and also have trained as an appraiser, as well as served as a full-time Broker. I have a strong knowledge of the industry, as well as many trusted local contacts & affiliations that allow me to perform at a very high level and deliver results. I have a great deal of respect for my peers in this industry and have strong working relationships that I would love to put to work for you. Call me to discuss your situation - I know I can be of great service to you & others you care about! Honesty. Integrity. Results.