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Community Happenings

Let Us Know!!

We look for and welcome
your suggestions, concerns
and questions about
what's going on in the
Ag Reserve.
Please email us here.

See "Growing Legacy,” a terrific portrait of the Ag Reserve,
produced by Montgomery Countryside Alliance.
Here’s the link to the 30 minute film.
MCA has a synopsis here.

[Staff login]

We Oppose a New Potomac Bridge

SCA applauds the Montgomery County Council’s unanimous vote on July 18 to oppose a proposed study of a new bridge across the Potomac north of the Beltway. We are pleased as well that Council members voiced their firm opposition to the bridge.

Unfortunately, just a day later the regional Council of Governments voted in favor of the bridge study as part of planning for future traffic flow in the area.

Our fight to kill the bridge will continue. The Council of Government’s Transportation Planning Board is scheduled to make a presentation to the full COG in December. That presentation is slated to include an assessment of whether the bridge should be considered as part of Montgomery County’s long-range transportation plan.

Between now and December, we will work diligently to oppose the bridge. County Council member and long-time Sugarloaf Citizens’ Association friend Marc Elrich is the Council’s representative on the COG Transportation Policy Board. We’ll work with Marc, who opposes the bridge, to make our case to the Board, the COG, and regional leaders who support the bridge.

The proposed bridge study is the latest attempt by some regional lawmakers, developers, and transportation officials to reprise an idea that has been defeated several times over many years.

Three major studies of a bridge between Virginia and northern Montgomery County have been conducted over the past 25 years. All have concluded that a bridge is an expensive, ineffective and environmentally destructive way to resolve regional traffic congestion, and that its adverse impact would far outweigh any economic benefits.

Most recently and notably, a 2015 analysis by the Virginia Department of Transportation found that an up-country bridge would require 13 to 15 miles of new highway in Montgomery County, and impose the bulk of cost and negative impact on Montgomery and the state of Maryland. In contrast, just 2 miles of new road would likely need to be built in Virginia, with far less impact in populated areas.

The 2015 study as well as previous studies indicated that the preferable transportation fixes for the region were (a) increasing the capacity of the American Legion Bridge, the Capital Beltway, and 270; (b) improvements to U.S. Route 301 to expand its use; (c) better Metro service; (d) improved regional bus and commuter services; and (e) an expansion and improvement of MARC service.

SCA also concurs with other local environmental groups that new and improved mass transit initiatives are the best way to ensure future reductions in the growth of travel by car in the region, and the adverse impact commuting by car has on land use and open spaces, air quality, climate change, and quality of life in Montgomery County.

We’ll keep you informed.

-- Lauren Greenberger, President, and the SCA Board

Announcing a New Sugarloaf
Citizens' Association Campaign

Many of you know that the 22-year old Covanta trash incinerator in Dickerson is Montgomery County’s second largest polluter. It’s responsible for some 15 percent of air pollution in the county.

The incinerator also generates 170,000 tons of toxic ash per year and other toxic emissions that are five to 25 times higher than what a coal-driven power plant of the same size would generate.

Dangerous uncontrolled fires at the plant have also occurred recently. Covanta acknowledges that the incinerator is in poor shape. Although the company has committed to new safety procedures and additional funding for repairs and maintenance, many questions remain regarding the feasibility of the plant’s safe operation.

For years, the citizens of Dickerson, Barnesville, Poolesville and the immediate environs around the incinerator have put up with the existence of this major polluting source.

An opportunity to shut down the incinerator has finally arrived, however. The contract with Covanta to operate the incinerator expires in April 2021.

Sugarloaf’s board has, therefore, decided to launch an initiative to close the incinerator down by 2021, if not before.

We will be joining forces with other environmental, social justice, and public health groups, both local and national, in this effort. But SCA will take the lead, given that the incinerator is in our backyard.

We have hired a leading environmental policy expert to assist us in navigating the legislative aspects of the campaign, as well as to help build the coalition.

You may well be thinking: “Well, what will happen to the trash?" Major advances in recycling and the reuse of waste have occurred over the past 20 years. As a result, a rapidly growing number of counties and cities across the country have switched to other means of waste removal and disposal. Some are achieving 85 percent or higher rates of recycling or environmentally friendly waste disposal - with a resultant sharp reduction in the burning or landfilling of waste.

A recent Montgomery County study found that of the materials being incinerated at the Covanta plant, 34 percent is food waste, 22 percent is paper and 18 percent is plastic. Even if these were the only things we got out of the waste stream and recycled we would already eliminate the need for the incinerator.

Aspirational "zero waste "programs are proving to be both economically viable and to create jobs in many communities. We believe there is emerging political will in Montgomery County to move aggressively toward this option, advocating a “zero waste” strategy for the county will be part of our campaign.

As we move forward, we’ll provide you with more details. For now, please know that we are excited to gear up for this fight to preserve the Agricultural Reserve and protect the health of our friends and neighbors.¬†We will be turning to you in the future for help in assuring this campaign is a success.

Lauren Greenberger, SCA President, and the SCA Board

Sugarloaf's Fundraiser a Great Success!

Lauren Greenberger introduces PEAR
- Julie Ragins and Curtis Brengle
Sugarloaf’s February 4 fundraiser, featuring the west coast duo PEAR, was a rousing success and tons of fun. About 170 attendees partook of a catered dinner and enjoyed the eclectic hour-long set of old and new musical favorites, as well as some original songs from the acclaimed group.

The packed audience enjoyed
an exciting show by PEAR

The event raised just under $7,000, a substantial addition to SCA’s coffers. The money will help pay for our advocacy and activities to protect the Ag Reserve and preserve a rural way of life in our community.

The event’s success has sparked conversation about making a winter fundraiser, with music, an annual tradition. Let us know what you think about that idea.

Congratulations to Anne & Jay Cinque!

Montgomery Countryside Alliance on October 23 presented the 2016 Royce Hanson Award to Anne and Jay Cinque in recognition of outstanding commitment to the protection of Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve. The annual award is named after its first recipient, Dr. Royce Hanson, former Chair of the Montgomery County Planning Commission and original architect of the Ag Reserve.

Anne and Jay are long-time SCA members and champions. Jay served as SCA president from 1983 to 1987. Both Anne and Jay are SCA board members now.

Anne and Jay moved to Boyds in the fall of 1973 with their two young sons, Bryn and Cory, who were 3 and 1 at the time.

As an early introduction to the importance of citizen activism, shortly after their arrival in Boyds, they were notified that Potomac Edison proposed to run a double pole transmission line from Clarksburg to Beallsville across their backyard - to “improve the grid." Their community involvement and testimony at many hearings before the Public Service Commission forced the line to be rerouted.

That initial involvement propelled both Jay and Anne into community activism. Jay served as President of the Boyds Civic Associationfrom 1975 to 1980) and, as mentioned above, as SCA president from 1983 to 1987. For the past five years Jay has also served as the treasurer of the Sugarloaf Land Conservancy. The conservancy helps private land owners put their property into conservation trusts.

Jay and Anne also have been heavily involved for years in preserving Little Seneca Reservoir. Most recently, they launched Friends of Ten Mile Creek and Little Seneca Reservoir. The group works to prevent development along Ten Mile Creek and the Little Seneca Reservoir.

Jay is a Scientific Review Administrator at NIH. Anne is a psychologist in private practice with offices in DC and on their property in Boyds. They farm 40 acres of hay, own horses and ride often on the beautiful land they have fought to preserve.

They say they cherish the Agricultural Reserve. In Anne’s words: “The soul can beautifully flourish in the space that the Agricultural Reserve protects.”

Stay "Ever Vigilant," SCA President Beth Daly
Urges at Annual Meeting

Sugarloaf's 44th annual meeting on April 30 reminded those gathered of the need to be "ever vigilant" - in the words of President Beth Daly - against threats to the Ag Reserve from developers and others who would whittle away at the Reserve's purpose: to preserve and nurture agricultural land use and a rural culture in a 93,000 acre portion of northern Montgomery County - almost one third of the county.

Daly also reminded SCA members and friends of the persistent need to educate Montgomery County residents about the Ag Reserve and the benefits it confers for all who live in the county.

Daly and other speakers - including Casey Anderson, chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board - highlighted SCA's work over the past year to:

• Oppose construction of a second Potomac River bridge that would vastly alter traffic volume and patterns in the Ag Reserve and fail to ease traffic congestion in the county as a whole.

• Support solar and renewable energy development in the county, but not the placement of solar facilities on land zoned and meant for farming. (SCA will install its own solar collectors at the Linden Barn this year.)

• Support the Ten Mile Creek Coalition in its battle to convince the WSSC to install environmentally friendly sewer technology in the sensitive Clarksburg watershed area.

• Oppose the Global Mission mega-church proposed for development off Route 109. Legal battles to block the Silver Spring-based church have been ongoing for several years; SCA has been actively involved in that litigation.

• Support agricultural and farm use easements throughout the Reserve, such as the 3-mile horse trail at Greentree Farm on Peachtree Road. (A developer was trying to weaken that easement.)

• Expand high-speed broadband access in rural areas in the Ag Reserve, to help farmers, home-based businesses, students and residents.

• Nurture understanding of the Ag Reserve and environmental conservation issues among students in the county. Sugarloaf and the Piedmont Environmental Coalition sponsor an annual environmental science project contest for middle and high school students. Sugarloaf also sponsors an annual essay contest focused on Ag Reserve issues among Poolesville High School students. (See item below.)

• Foster local farming, gardening and land management in the Ag Reserve and at Sugarloaf's own Linden Farm. Sugarloaf holds gardening seminars and an annual spring plant swap, and has recently created an apiary at the farm.

Daly reminded attendees that none of Sugarloaf's work would be possible without support from members. As she wrote in her 2015 end-of- the-year note: "From its inception, Sugarloaf has been an all-volunteer organization... But land use attorneys, environmental experts, and communication tools to mobilize and support supporters cost money. And we would not have realized the successes of the past year without investing in that expertise."

If you are not a member please consider joining us to help preserve and protect the Ag Reserve. Membership is $20 per individual and $40 for a family. Click on the button above to find out how to donate.

PHS Student Clara Jackson Wins 2nd Annual Essay Contest

Poolesville High School student Clara Jackson, a junior next year, is the winner of Sugarloaf's 2nd annual essay contest, which carries a $300 cash prize.

Congratulations Clara! (A link to her essay is below.)

Finalists were Kavon Badie, Jen Dunn, and Ankit Sheth. Sugarloaf President Beth Daly, one of the contest's judges, said, "The choice was tough. Many of the essays were very thoughtful and creative. We thank and applaud the students at PHS for participating and look forward to next year's contest."

Jackson, the finalists and several dozen other PHS students submitted essays in response to this "dream farm" challenge:

So, let's say you wake up one day in Montgomery County, MD and your world has dramatically shifted. You brush your teeth, get dressed, and go downstairs only to discover that your home has been transported to a beautiful 100-acre farm located in a section of Montgomery Country called the Agricultural Reserve. You find a note on the kitchen table. Here is what it says:

"Welcome to your new world. The land surrounding you is prime Maryland agricultural land. You will live here for 3 years. You are responsible for managing the farm. You'll find $100,000 in a checking account in your name to get you started. Have fun!"

A fantasy, of course. But can you imagine being a farmer? What would you do with the land? Would you plant crops like corn or soybeans, or perhaps raise cattle or sheep? Or start a horse farm and riding school? Or maybe you'd grow grapes to sell to wine makers. Or plant an orchard.

We invite you to write a brief essay explaining what you would do with the farm and why, and how it would enhance the Ag Reserve.

Here's the beginning of Clara's essay, with a link to the full text at the bottom.

There are a wide variety of crops grown and livestock raised in the Montgomery County ("MoCo") Agricultural Reserve. Some of the most prominent crops grown include corn, soybeans, wheat and barley. If I had an opportunity to manage a farm in the Ag Reserve, I would try a different crop. While many would choose to grow the established crops, I believe that it would be beneficial to diversify the Ag Reserve by introducing a new crop - hops. This would offer my new farm a niche so that my farm wouldn't have to compete with older, more established farms. It would also help expand the economy of the Agricultural Reserve, because new crops attract new businesses and people. If I was given a farm in the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve, I would grow organic hops (specifically Cascade, Golding, Nugget, Chinook, and Fuggle hops) to sell to the various craft breweries in the DC-Maryland - Virginia area.

Link to full essay.

Sugarloaf Citizens' Association, Inc.
Linden Farm 
20900 Martinsburg Road
P.O. Box 218 
Dickerson, MD 20842

 © Copyright 2017 Sugarloaf Citizens' Association. All rights reserved.