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The Makings of a Conservation Hub

May 23, 2013 06:23PM ● By Anonymous

ESLC is in the midst of a campaign to raise more than $6 million for the purchase and renovation of the McCord building, and the renovation of a neighboring office building that was donated to the organization last year. If fundraising goals are met this spring, as planned, renovations will begin on the Eastern Shore Conservation Center this summer, and conservation organizations, including ESLC, will begin moving in next year. Here’s what ESLC Executive Director Robert J. Etgen has to say about the project.

How did the idea for a conservation center transpire?

It started with us running out of space in our current headquarters in a rented University of Maryland building on the Wye River near Queenstown. Our board set up a committee that decided we should walk our talk about helping small towns on the Eastern Shore. And, after many months of looking in several small towns and at many buildings, our board chose the most ambitious of many options—a collaborative nonprofit center in the McCord building in Easton.

What types of organizations do you envision occupying the building?

The Eastern Shore Conservation Center will be a home to conservation organizations serving the Shore, including some state or national organizations that have a presence here. We also would like to see “green” businesses and perhaps a café. Our building also would offer desk space to those who normally would commute to a job in Baltimore or D.C. This would provide them a professional space in which to work and reduce the carbon footprint for those commuters.

Is there anything else like this on the Shore?

No. Part of our motivation for creating such a center is to bring sister organizations together to share resources and to collaborate on projects and ideas.

How can people get involved in the cause?

The thing we need most right now is donations. We are on a deadline for settlement, and although we intend to take ownership of McCord by May, and already own the adjacent “Brick Row” building, extensive renovations are needed on both.

Have you taken on any projects of a similar nature in the past?

Although we previously have not renovated a building, we have worked on many projects in towns. We cannot save rural lands without investing in our towns as economic centers where growth should occur. Our work has included collaborations with the Town of Easton on creating a park out of an old retired town dump; the Town of Oxford on stormwater management; and the City of Cambridge on a Gateway revitalization project.

With a name like Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, it’s clear that conservation is at your core. What are the different ways in which you go about “preserving and sustaining the vibrant communities of the Eastern Shore and the lands and waters that connect them?”

We have been protecting our rural areas for almost 25 years, and now have preserved 284 properties on nearly 54,000 acres through conservation easements and creating parks and wildlife areas. As mentioned, we also are working with towns to help them become attractive and vibrant places to live and work. In addition, we are active in setting land use and economic development policy and sponsor, with former Congressman Wayne Gilchrest, a children’s outdoor education center on the Sassafras River. We believe these approaches will keep our open lands protected and our waters clean, while giving residents healthy, green, accessible places in which to live, work, and play.

Photos by Dave Harp