On Dec. 3, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley announced plans to acquire more than 9,200 acres along the Potomac River and on the Eastern Shore. The plans include spending more than $71 million in a combination of grants, national and state funds.

In Southern Maryland the land targeted for preservation is the Zekiah Watershed in Charles County and three sites in St. Mary’s County: Cedar Point, Newtown Neck, and St. Inigoes.

Most of the land is held by the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus and has been owned by them since the days of Maryland’s first governor. Plans call for the properties to eventually be opened to the public as nature trails, pristine parkland and beaches or as environmental preserves.  The properties represent some of the state’s most ecologically significant farm and shoreline areas and is among the oldest forestland in the state.

Congressman Steny Hoyer applauded the effort stating that Maryland has been a leader in the conservation effort and that the announcement was an important step toward ensuring the future generations of Marylanders would be able to enjoy the conserved spaces.

In St. Mary’s County, the designated sites are some of the most beautiful anywhere.

Cedar Point is located within a high priority conservation area, the property’s 1,737 acres of woodlands, wetlands and agricultural fields which protects 4.2 miles of shoreline along Port Tobacco Creek and the Potomac River.

St. Inigoes is situated less than five miles south of historic St. Mary’s City. The 985-acre peninsula’s includes eight miles of shoreline separating the St. Mary’s River and Smith Creek. It is believed that the preservation of the St. Inigoes property also helps to prevent development encroachment upon the U.S. Navy’s Webster Field.

New Towne Neck is a fertile 776-acre peninsula located between Breton Bay and the Potomac Rover. The area also has some of its seven miles of shoreline on St. Clements Bay.

O’Malley said the acquisitions were to be funded by the state’s land preservation fund and federal money. The proposed acquisition would more than double the 8,100 acres of open space that his administration has bought since he took office.

“The globe is becoming increasingly hotter, flatter and more depleted,” O’Malley said, at a news conference to announce the land purchases. The proposed acquisition must be approved by the Board of Public Works before the state may proceed. O’Malley stated that his administration is seeking a more sustainable future. He mentioned that one of the biggest concerns with the state’s eight percent population growth since 1990 was the accompanying 41 percent increase in paved surfaces in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The governor reported that nearly 21 percent of the state’s land has been developed and that, with the planned acquisition, a comparable share would be preserved. He also indicated that paving surfaces are expanding almost five times faster than the population growth in the area.