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Secretary’s Message: August 2017

Growing Access to Public Lands

Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton joins Governor Larry Hogan and others at the Ocean City Boat Ramp grand openingOne of the key objectives in our mission at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is to provide diverse outdoor recreation opportunities for our citizens and visitors. This has been an exciting year for our department’s efforts to expand recreational access, opportunities and options within our beautiful public lands.

Off-road vehicle enthusiasts can get ready to take on a new trail as our department recently opened St. John’s Rock ORV Trail and Campground in Garrett County. Located within Savage River State Forest, this new attraction includes more than 12 miles of woodland trails professionally conceptualized and constructed specifically for recreational enjoyment and use.

Legally permitted riders can now make advanced reservations for day use and overnight camping through the department’s online licensing and registration system.

Development of this unique ORV trail – the first of its kind in Maryland – has been the work of a great partnership with the community and stakeholders. ORV enthusiasts and riders provided the contractors and engineers feedback and input on the trail throughout the development process. We also worked closely with professionals to ensure the trail was designed and constructed in accordance with the department’s dual forest certification standards, to protect our public lands for future generations.

Also this summer we celebrated a great partnership to expand recreational opportunities in Ocean City, where we officially opened the public 64th Street Boat Ramp.

The department’s Waterway Improvement Fund provided partial funding for construction of the parking area, and a 100 percent grant for dredging. The department will also help extend the channel from 64th Street into Assawoman Bay. This fund is a vital state resource that ensures that the public will continue to benefit from Maryland’s world-class recreational boating facilities for years to come.

Of course the crown jewel of our state’s recreation opportunities is the Maryland Park Service. The Board of Public Works gave us the go-ahead to acquire 460 acres in Cecil County for the future development of the new Bohemia River State Park. Featuring 14,000 linear feet of frontage on the Bohemia River, the new park will provide multiple access points for canoeing, fishing, kayaking and other outdoor pursuits. Shaded open meadows overlooking the confluence of creeks will provide a scenic location for birding, hiking, picnicking, and general nature-based observation and recreation. Public access to the new park should begin next spring or summer.

Using our financial resources wisely and working closely with our local partners, we will continue to find new ways to preserve and protect our public spaces while providing public access to all who wish to enjoy them.