The Coalition to Preserve Black Marsh was a non-profit citizen's action group formed in 1990 to preserve and to conserve Baltimore County's Black Marsh, a 232-acre marsh that lies within North Point State Park, part of the Gunpowder Falls Maryland State Park system. In 1987, Maryland's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) purchased the land that comprises North Point State Park from Bethlehem Steel and began to develop plans for the park, including such facilities as a refurbished trolley station, parking lot, visitors' center, and boat slip. The Coalition strongly objected to the DNR's plans and spearheaded a number of non-litigious activities to raise awareness about Black Marsh and to voice concern about the DNR's proposal. In addition, the group unsuccessfully pursued several legal actions hoping to change the DNR's plans for the park. In Summer 1996, the Coalition became the Friends of North Point State Park and appears to have disbanded officially in Summer 1997. The collection contains minutes and correspondence of the Coalition; records of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' activities relating to the development of North Point State Park; copies of publicity campaigns, including relevant articles; maps and photographs of the state park; a video of a panel hearing in 1991; and official and unofficial documentation of the Coalition's legal activity, including files kept by its attorneys. The bulk of the materials concentrates on the active years of the Coalition, 1990 to 1994. Early twentieth-century materials include photocopies of court cases and statutes.
This collection is open for research.
Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.
5.25 Linear Feet
The Coalition to Preserve Black Marsh records include materials dating from 1945 to 1999. The bulk of the materials concentrates on the active years of the CPBM, 1990 to 1994. Early twentieth-century materials include photocopies of court cases and statutes. The collection contains CPBM's minutes and correspondence; records of the DNR's activities; copies of publicity campaigns, including relevant articles; maps and photographs of the state park; a video of the panel hearing in 1991; and official and unofficial documentation of the CPBM's legal activity, including files kept by its attorneys.
In 1990, a group of concerned individuals formed the Coalition to Preserve Black Marsh, Inc. (CPBM), a non-profit citizen's action group, to preserve and conserve Baltimore County's Black Marsh, a 232-acre marsh that lies within North Point State Park, part of the Gunpowder Falls Maryland State Park system. The four main officers of CPBM were Richard C. Pollack, Sr., president; Daniel Lynch, vice president; Vera D. Hinkelman, treasurer; and Cindy Stitz, secretary. By 1995, its roughly 1,000 individual and fifty group members comprised mostly area residents and local organizations.
North Point State Park consists of 1,320 acres in southeast Baltimore County, including six miles of Chesapeake Bay shoreline, and contains several marshes, the largest of which is Black Marsh. Rare birds found in Black Marsh include bald eagles, great horned owls, American bitterns, Northern harriers, red-tailed hawks, black rails, herons, egrets, canvasbacks, goldeneyes, ruddy ducks, mergansers, and scaup. Flora species in Black Marsh include whorled water-pennywort, Koehne's ammannia, flattened sedge, agalinis fasciculata, small's spikerush, white-bracted boneset, large marsh pink, and tickseed sunflower.
Continuously farmed from the seventeenth century, the site was the scene of skirmishes during the War of 1812 and housed an amusement park called "Bay Shore Park" from 1906 until the 1940s. Bethlehem Steel purchased the land in 1946, announcing the acquisition to the public in August 1947. Because the area is convenient to shipping in the Chesapeake Bay, Bethlehem Steel Company located at nearby Sparrows Point wanted to prevent competitors from developing a rival steel plant in the area. Bethlehem Steel never developed any of the property, using it only as a recreational facility for guests and employees who enjoyed hunting, fishing, and target shooting. Through the state's Program Open Space, Maryland's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) purchased the land that comprises North Point State Park from Bethlehem Steel for over $5 million on December 22, 1987.
In 1988, the DNR began to develop plans for North Point State Park (then called Black Marsh State Park). The focus of the DNR's plans for development was (in this and subsequent plans) both to protect the natural resources of the wildlands and to create bay access, including such facilities as a refurbished trolley station, parking lot, visitors' center, boat slip, fishing pier, boardwalk, pavilion, amphitheatre, fountain, picnic area, and - at one time - a restaurant.
CPBM strongly objected to the DNR's proposals for development at North Point. They argued that the marsh was a sensitive and unique environment that should be conserved and felt the DNR's plans would adversely affect that conservation. The CPBM wanted the land to be converted into a low-impact natural park and opposed any construction (buildings or roads) on the waterfront or in the marsh itself.
From 1990 until Fall 1991, CPBM pursued a number of non-litigious activities to raise awareness about Black Marsh and to voice its concern about the DNR's proposal, including letter-writing campaigns, petition-signing drives, a press campaign, a phone-a-thon, yard sales, and a march. They also mounted a campaign opposing Maryland Senate Bill 417 and Maryland House Bill 596, measures to designate North Point State Park as a wildland. CPBM believed that the new law would artificially split the park into two areas--one protected and another that could be developed at will. In addition, members of CPBM met with state delegates and DNR representatives, held public information meetings, and drafted their own plans for the park.
On September 25, 1991, the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission (CAC), chaired by Judge John C. North, II, held a hearing on DNR's draft plan for Black Marsh. Lee Epstein of Linowes & Blocher spoke at the hearing on behalf of the CPBM. The Critical Area Commission released its decision, in the form of a panel report, on November 26, 1991; it conditionally approved the DNR's concept plan in a 16 to 1 vote. On January 3, 1992, the CPBM - now represented by George Kelly and Thomas Eastman of Ober, Kaler, Grimes, and Shriver - filed an appeal in the Baltimore County Circuit Court to reverse the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission's hearing decision. On February 19, 1993, the appeal was dismissed with prejudice (a final and binding decision that bars further prosecution of the same cause of action or motion). On October 4, 1993, the CPBM sued the Critical Area Commission for a writ of mandamus, which was dismissed on October 11, 1994.
In Summer 1996, CPBM became the Friends of North Point State Park (FNPSP). As a group, members argued for an inland visitors' center and the elimination of boat tie-ups. They also supported a main trail instead of a new road through the park, arguing for the existing Haul Road to serve as the main road. In 1996, the Friends of North Point State Park accepted DNR Secretary John Griffin's offer to work with the DNR in the development of the park, acting in an advising capacity at least until the Summer 1997. They also tracked the development of North Point State Park, helped to recruit volunteers for park educational activities, and donated some materials, such as binoculars, to the park. In 1997, the FNPSP (formerly CPBM) received a certificate of appreciation from the DNR. The FNPSP appears to have disbanded officially in the Summer 1997.
The collection is organized as three series:
Polly Walker, a member of the Coalition to Preserve Black Marsh, donated the papers to the University of Maryland Libraries in 2003.
In its original state, the organization of the CPBM records was both inconsistent and largely incoherent. Upon closer examination, it became apparent that two groups of individuals created the records--the Coalition to Preserve Black Marsh and the law firm Ober, Kaler, Grimes, and Shriver. The first set of records consisted both of folders with headings and loose documents; many of the headings on the folders were not descriptive of the contents. In the second set of records, most of the documents were housed loosely inside accordion folders. Documents located in manila folders among the loose documents were labeled "TBE 13399/42380 Coalition to Preserve Black Marsh," referring most likely to the initials of one of the attorneys, Thomas B. Eastman, and the case number or client number in the law firm's filing system. Also, many of these documents are imprinted with a footer that has a similar alphanumeric system, probably an intra-office tracking system.
The first step of arrangement separated the two sets of records into two series: Series I: Administrative Records (the records created by the CPBM) and Series II: Legal Records (the records created by the law firm). Although there is some overlap in subject matter between the series, the two sets of records were separated by provenance. Series I, for example, contains some legal documents, and both series have maps. Most of the records were reorganized and filed under newly created folder headings, but headings that corresponded with folder contents were retained, and in some cases, relevant documents were added to those folders. Although staples were removed and folder contents were rehoused in acid-free folders, materials in "Correspondence, 1987-1991, n.d."; "Correspondence, 1990"; "Correspondence, 1991"; "Chronological File, 1988, 1991-1992"; and "Chronological File, 1993 and n.d." were kept intact, as originally they were bound together with a large, metal fastener. The original order of the contents of these folders and that in the "Statutory and Case Law" folders was retained. All other materials were arranged chronologically within folders.
Duplicate items within the same series were discarded. Metal fasteners were replaced with acid-free clips over acid-free paper. Sheets of acid-free paper mark the beginning and the end of those items too large to be clipped together with plastic clips. Post-It Notes with marks on them and news clippings were photocopied onto acid-free paper. Oversize items were separated from the collection, placed in acid-free folders, and housed in a map case. Documents were removed from binders, items were unfolded, and photographs were housed in non-reactive, polyester sleeves.