Editorial: County Executive Pittman needs to protect parks and not give them away

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman needs to stop attempting to give away pieces of Anne Arundel County parks to his friends and political supporters.

Parks belong to the public – they don’t belong to this current or any other county executive to give away at their pleasure.

With less and less green space and more of it falling to developers, parks should be off limits for development – instead Pittman goes from one park to another, determined to give chunks of these properties away, which is a violation of the public trust doctrine.

These park giveaway attempts happened at Quiet Waters Park twice (once for a rowing center and once for an office building). It’s happened at Homeport Farm Park (rowing center). It’s happened at Millersville Park (tennis center). And it’s happened at Provinces Park (swim center).

Rowing center?

Three, private rowing clubs convinced our county executive they should get space in a county park for their members. It was actually more like two clubs because one said they didn’t need it – it was a want.

You can read about all of it here, including the fallacies that were being sold to the county by one of the rowing clubs.

The idea for a rowing center was first floated for Quiet Waters Park and it died because of opposition. That’s when the idea then moved to Homeport Farm Park, which has deed restrictions against organized and competitive activities – rowing is both organized and competitive.

The adjacent community has an attorney who sent a 97 page letter of opposition to the county executive and members of the county council.


Keep in mind, Pittman’s rowing center was never about creating or improving water access, as both Quiet Waters and Homeport offer water access – it was about giving three, private rowing clubs a rowing facility that it seemed no one other than their members and Pittman wanted.

Swim center?

The latest issue with parks and Pittman is the idea to build a county swim center at Provinces Park.

Swim centers are wonderful. They provide recreational space for the masses – not just for private clubs. They’re needed, but they’re not needed at the expense of parkland.

With all the vacant, commercial spaces available in that area of Anne Arundel County, why the county would pave over a park, or part of it, for a swim center and parking lot is as ludicrous as the office building and parking lot idea in Quiet Waters Park.

Does our county executive know about this thing called climate change?

Shortly after Chesapeake Conservancy stepped away from the idea of building an office building and parking lot inside Quiet Waters Park, Pittman was at Quiet Waters for an interview with WMAR.

I was also at Quiet Waters at the same time and I saw Pittman walking back to the large SUV that shuttles him around at taxpayer expense – this trip to Quiet Waters for the county executive resulted in a total of 14 seconds of him being in the WMAR story.

It’s almost as if our county executive never heard of climate change and how imperative it is to protect the natural resources we do have – how incredibly necessary it is to protect the parks, green spaces, forests and waterways.

But Pittman actually has heard of climate change.

An April 2021 press release from Pittman’s office states, “County Executive Steuart Pittman and Anne Arundel County Attorney Greg Swain announced today that the County filed suit in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court to hold more than two dozen fossil fuel companies accountable for costs the County is incurring to survive the consequences of climate change.”

There are two sides to Pittman – there’s the one driving an electric car for a social media post and suing fossil fuel companies and there’s the one that gets chauffeured around in a large SUV, trying to give pieces of public parks away for development.

The byproduct of Pittman’s entitlement with these park giveaway attempts has been alienating many of those who were his supporters at one time.

Pittman was booed off the stage at a meeting about the office building proposed for Quiet Waters.

Petulant responses to opposition and playing the victim

When this opposition to park giveaways has occurred, Pittman has developed a habit of petulant social media posts where he plays the victim or frames it so that it appears his friends and supporters that were supposed to get pieces of parks are the victims.

He did it with Homeport and he did it with Quiet Waters.

With Homeport, Pittman referred to “vicious attacks” on his Facebook post. What vicious attacks? Was he referring to an article on this site that fact checked the rowing clubs and found the untruths that one of those clubs has since removed from their website?

Pittman also failed to mention in his Facebook post about Homeport that the rowing amenities were meant specifically for private, rowing clubs that lack diversity – he failed to mention the study commissioned for the private rowing clubs that looked at many locations for a rowing facility and deemed Homeport an unsuitable site.

Instead, the county executive wrote in his Facebook post, “The opposition by some kayakers to sharing existing parks like Homeport with rowers, undermines our public water access efforts.”

It wasn’t just the kayakers in opposition to bringing an organized and competitive sport to a park that has deed prohibiting it and it certainly wasn’t about public water access – that framing by Pittman in his Facebook post was kind of manipulative.

With Quiet Waters, Pittman referred to “vitriol” and “online attacks” on his Facebook post. What online attacks? What vitriol?

These petulant responses to opposition are not new by Pittman.

When the Maryland Department of Natural Resources told Pittman a program he started was against state law, he wrote to Governor Hogan and stated, “Please ask Secretary Haddaway-Riccio to refrain from further interference in the Anne Arundel County Venison Food Relief Program.”

According to a Capital Gazette article, “Wednesday evening, the governor’s spokesperson Mike Ricci said: ‘It is highly inappropriate for the county executive to suggest that one of the highest-ranking women in state government should ‘refrain’ from doing her job.'”

Pittman apparently doesn’t deal with opposition well.

The vast majority of those in opposition to these repeated park giveaway attempts are not vicious, they don’t attack people and they’re not bullies.

These people have been standing up for parks, they’re standing up for green spaces, for clean water, for quiet places, for areas that actually do help to mitigate climate change.

In short, these people are standing up for the environment in the absence of a county executive that should be.

For those that called these people names – they’re protecting your property and your property values. They’re protecting your parks.

Are they bullies or vicious? Heck no – I’d go so far as to call them heroes.

Pittman apparently realized his behavior with the Quiet Waters fiasco wasn’t his finest and he subsequently wrote about it.

It wasn’t that most people didn’t understand the project or how the office building would be used – they didn’t want an office building and parking lot for it in a public park, just the same way people don’t want private rowing clubs to get a piece of a park at taxpayer expense and in one that has deed restrictions prohibiting it, or a swim center to get a large chunk of another park, or a privately-run tennis center to get a large chunk of another park and also at taxpayer expense.

Mr. Pittman – stop trying to steal parks or pieces of them from the public to give to your friends and political supporters. Protect these green spaces and act like it’s 2023. Stop the backroom wheeling and dealing which keeps resulting in masses of people speaking out in defense of parks and against your desire to tear them up.

Does the “best place for all” actually mean the best place for those with political pull and lacking diversity?

Lack of transparency with Pittman and his administration

With these park giveaway attempts, people, lots of them, complained there were no meetings, no public notices and they had no idea these parks were in jeopardy – county officials said there were notices and meetings.

Maybe the public notices haven’t been public enough?

With Quiet Waters Park, a meeting was held by the county on Halloween night when a lot of people were out trick or treating or staying home to give treats to those that are – that was quite the trick by the county.

By the time the opposition to Quiet Waters Park had a meeting, Pittman, before getting booed off the stage, suggested to those in attendance that it would be difficult to stop the office building from being built because the process was already so far down the road.

It was stopped and not because the county executive did anything, but because Chesapeake Conservancy did – they heard the opposition.

In a recent editorial in The Capital Gazette, the writer suggested a number of steps that the county could do to help their lack of transparency and citizen involvement.

“The matter of constructing an office building in Quiet Waters Park might be resolved for now, but there are still raw feelings, citizen complaints about the lack of transparency of the process and frankly some deep-seated concerns that this is just another example of a broken process,” wrote Matt Minahan.

With transparency comes trust. Without it comes lack of trust.

The future and our parks?

What does the future look like for our parks? Hopefully, we’ll have more of them, not less, but with the past few years of park giveaway attempts as an example, we’re on shaky ground in Anne Arundel County.

A little over two years ago, while Pittman and his family were enjoying a vacation at a national park, he wrote about the experience.

“It was forward-thinking politicians from both political parties who first saved the land from development and then put unemployed people to work building roads and parks in response to the Great Depression,” wrote Pittman. “That big thinking in a time of crisis gave today’s families the peace, clarity, and honesty that wilderness provides.”

Pittman concluded, “The future matters, and it’s time for today’s politicians to plan for it.”

The future does indeed matter and it is past “time for today’s politicians to plan for it.”

We need to protect the natural areas we have and keep them peaceful, green and with trees – if deeds exist for existing park properties, the county needs to adhere to the terms.

With Homeport Farms Park and the idea of giving three, private clubs amenities paid by Anne Arundel County taxpayers, my editorial asked, “What’s next – stables for polo ponies?”

It turned out what was next was the idea to build an office building and parking lot inside of a public park.

It’s entirely possible the land that the county purchased at Quiet Waters Park, where the office building was proposed, would’ve been developed for homes. That didn’t happen because the county purchased it – in part with funds that came from the Earl family in the form of a donation to Chesapeake Conservancy.

I’m grateful the county purchased the property, that Chesapeake Conservancy and the Earl Family helped with the purchase, as did the U.S. Navy and other funding sources – I’m also glad Chesapeake Conservancy heard the opposition and decided against the office building idea.

That was one story at one park. There are more parks.

Thanks to those who’ve stood up for our parks. These are places that are near and dear to so many of us, they do mitigate the impacts of climate change and they provide humans and wildlife with peaceful, green spaces – we need them.

With Pittman having over three more years in office, the people of Anne Arundel County need to keep a close eye on what has become a pattern of entitled behavior by him in his ongoing attempts to give chunks of our public parks away to his friends and supporters – it’s unsustainable, it’s unethical, it’s a violation of the public trust doctrine and it’s inequitable.

Donna L. Cole is an award-winning investigative and multimedia reporter. She frequents parks.

More reading about Pittman’s park giveaway attempts:

Tennis Center Updates from the Tennis Alliance

Janet Holbrook: County Council must reject Coppermine tennis facility | COMMENTARY

Anne Arundel proposes rowing and paddling facility in Quiet Waters Park after six-year search

Our Say: Anne Arundel desperately needs a rowing, paddling center | COMMENTARY

Lisa Arrasmith: Stand-alone rowing facility plan would not be a wise use of public funds | COMMENTARY

Paul Foer: Let’s put the brakes on Quiet Waters Park plan | COMMENTARY

Readers call on county, Chesapeake Conservancy to re-think Quiet Waters Park new construction | READER COMMENTARY

Anastasia Hopkinson: Is Quiet Waters Park a public park or an office park? | COMMENTARY

Andrew Loftus: Delay Quiet Waters Park plan until public commission is appointed, makes reccomendations (sp) | COMMENTARY

Score one for the bullies: Threats and boos kill Quiet Waters environmental center

Gerald Winegrad: Public and Friends of Quiet Waters Park need to be involved in expansion plan | COMMENTARY

2 Replies to “Editorial: County Executive Pittman needs to protect parks and not give them away”

  1. Ms. Cole – Thank you for this. I am one of the “team” that has been working to stop the Homeport issue. We had a meeting with Jessica Leys, Erica Matthews and Vincent Moulden recently that we feel may have hammered in the last nail on this absurd and offensive plan to decimate the park. Are we sure? No – Pittman has proven to be everything you say he is and we are still waiting for another foray. Let’s hope it does not come. I have been sharing your writing. Beautifully done. You are appreciated.

    Karen M. Whaley

  2. Speaking of county parks, what is the environmental plan for the county parks? Is there one? I asked a park ranger and assistant today about whether a plan is in place for my neighborhood park. Neither were aware of one. I’ve noticed a lot of clearing, fencing, benches, little gardens, new paths (a threat to amphibians) mounds of wood chips (from the trees that have been cut down) in my neighborhood park, which is one of the larger and most visited parks in the county. A lot of habitat has been cleared out, with no notice or discussion. This habitat has hosted woodcock, fox sparrows, a Merlin for two years, and other birds. The four large trees where the Merlin perched were cut down. Much has been cleared in a flood plane of one of our county rivers for a passive, recreational activity. When I have spoken to the rangers, the response has been that there is plenty of habitat in the park. It doesn’t seem like there is any environmental plan in place. Further, the birds whose habitat have been destroyed are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty.

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