PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (August 17, 2017)—It was a winning situation for all agencies involved, as well as the residents of St. Mary's County, when Snow Hill Farm—purchased for preservation and parkland purposes from a long-time private landowner—was opened to the public July 22 as Snow Hill Park.
Comprising 163 acres in the northern Hollywood area, the waterfront property was acquired with the help of funding from the DoD's Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program, a key tool in minimizing encroachment that could impede or restrict military testing, training and operations. REPI allows the military services to enter into unique cost-sharing partnerships with state and local governments and private conservation organizations to preserve compatible land uses around military installations and to conserve natural landscapes in support of military readiness.
In this case, the Navy partnered with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and St. Mary's County and contributed approximately $384,000 to the $1.8 million deal. The property, now owned and managed by St. Mary's County, was purchased in fee by the county, who then granted the Navy a sole easement. The partners provided the county with state Program Open Space and federal REPI funding to offset the cost of the purchase.
"The Navy does not own the property but will hold an easement that will limit incompatible development such as tall structures or intense residential development," explained Lindsay Tempinson, a contractor working with Atlantic Test Ranges (ATR) at NAS Patuxent River. "Snow Hill Park is beneath air space used for testing and training. These easements are legally binding and are in perpetuity, meaning they will remain in place forever."
Snow Hill Park—with its 1,700 feet of shoreline, protected cove and 500 feet of beach on the Patuxent River—will provide the community with water access and a multitude of recreational opportunities, such as canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, swimming and picnicking. It could also include a motorized boat launch and athletic fields in the future.
"There were a total of 237 cars last weekend," noted St. Mary's County Recreation and Parks Program Coordinator Tyrone Harris, during an open house held at the park Aug. 10. "It was very pleasant; mostly county folks. Most of them wanted to know when the boat ramp is coming."
Since 2010, ATR and Pax River have been partnering with communities and conservation organizations to conserve land under the REPI program. These partnerships not only protect open land required for military activities, but also preserve farmlands and wildlife habitat, protect endangered species, and improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
"Snow Hill Farm brings the total property protected with REPI in the ATR/Pax operating areas to 6,100 acres; 26 parcels," said Pax River's Community Planning Liaison Officer Sabrina Hecht with NAVFAC Washington, who works with ATR to locally coordinate and facilitate the REPI program.
The success of the program requires the commitment and collaboration of many different organizations and partners who share common goals in the region, and St. Mary's County Commissioner John O'Conner acknowledged the strong relationship between the local community and Pax River.
"Working together is how we get things done for the citizens of the county," O'Conner said. "That is how this partnership will last for a very long time to come. I'm appreciative of the investment from the U.S. Navy."
Snow Hill Park, located at 26590 South Sandgates Road in Mechanicsville, is currently open weekends only from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Oct. 1. The cost to enter is $5 per car for county residents and $10 per car for others.