As the current Maryland legislative session draws to a close, organizations advocating for the preservation of the state’s historical sites and open spaces are applauding the restoration of funds for that purpose. The capital budget, which was approved March 29, includes $600,000 in funds for preservation grants.
“With final approval of the Maryland state budget, grant funding for historic preservation will see its first appropriation in nearly a decade,” said Nicholas Redding, executive director of Preservation Maryland, a Baltimore-based historical advocacy organization that lobbied extensively to restore funding. “Thanks to the support of members, partner organizations and legislative champions, Preservation Maryland is pleased to report that funding once considered lost forever is now officially back. The Montgomery County delegation has been extremely helpful and very supportive of historic preservation work, as evidenced by their support for this funding as well as key local initiatives like state bond bill funding for Pleasant View Historic Site near the Kentlands/Quince Orchard which also passed this session.”
At a public meeting at Historic Takoma Park in January of last year, near the start of that year’s legislative session, Redding discussed the practical value of preserving historical sites and open spaces, as well as the legislature’s neglect of these efforts.
“We need to be sure that we don’t describe our issues as a niche issue or as something that’s just nice to have,” Redding said. “Our issues are integral to community development; they are integral to creating the kinds of sustainable communities that people want to move into.”
Crucial to preservation funding, Redding said, was Program Open Space, legislation passed by the General Assembly in 1969 that stipulates that a small percentage of the tax paid on every property purchased in Maryland is to be set aside for historic preservation. Redding said this bill was a great accomplishment but that successive administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, had treated it like a “piggy bank.”
“They have dipped into it and taken out $1 billion that was promised to the people to be spent on preservation and instead spent it on various pet projects throughout Maryland,” Redding said.
Redding urged the audience at the meeting to aggressively voice support for preservation funding to their elected officials.
“Grassroots advocacy has been critical to the success of our efforts,” Redding said.
In a statement issued after the budget’s passage, Preservation Maryland stated that it would work closely with the State Historical Trust to find worthy grant recipients throughout the state.
“A lot of people worked very hard for this, and we’re very happy with our legislature,” said Sarah L. Rogers, executive director of Heritage Montgomery, a Montgomery County-based historical society. “Our rich African-American heritage sites in Montgomery County are in urgent need of funds.”
Rogers said that Heritage Montgomery is hard at work planning the 20th anniversary of Heritage Days, an annual event at the end of June in which area residents are invited to attend a variety of historical events and exhibits throughout the county.
“It will be spectacular,” Rogers said.