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 Why it is critical that an easement be forever
- well done Baltimore County

By Betsy LaBelle

As a 15-year-old, I went to Garrison Forest School and witnessed land conservation values as an integral part of this community and the landscape in Baltimore County. Then, I built my dreams and career in Wellington, Florida, as a press writer for three stadiums: Hunter Jumper, Dressage, and Polo. 


For fifteen years, I covered the twelve-week winter seasons and wrote for the local papers and many equestrian magazines. I traveled worldwide promoting equestrian sports and I interviewed the Wellington Village Council and community members when they ran for office. And, of course, I wrote about land conservation and the significant Equestrian Preserve set up in 1995 by former Palm Beach County Commissioner Ken Adams. He was crucial in organizing the Village of Wellington and forming the Equestrian Preserve. One-third (9,200 acres) of the 28,960 acres were designated as an Equestrian Preserve, meaning the land is zoned for 10 acres per residential-built home – small by Maryland standards, but plentiful in comparison to most areas in coastal Florida 

Sadly, this  past November in 2023, the horse show owner and now developer, Mark Bellissimo, swayed the four council members to take over 200 acres out of the Equestrian Preserve to become 1-acre parcels – think cul de sacs and pools.


Twenty years ago, the Tallahassee, Florida lawmakers approved Ken’s plan on one condition: that there would be an OUT clause to get land out of the  preserve just in case the equestrian sports no longer thrived. That clause would require four out of five council members to vote to take land out. Ken hoped that all council members would see the enormous value of the open space plan.  

Ken passed away in 2022 and within 18 months, the council recently overturned his vision with a 4-1 vote. The developer’s proposal is vague and gives enormous latitude and the power to destroy the distinctive character and beauty of the community. It’s only the beginning of the dominos to take more land out of the Preserve. I’m sad to have witnessed the demise of the passion of the founders. No land trusts easements were put into place. 


Well done here in Baltimore County and the surrounding counties in Maryland. The Land Preservation Trust along with County and State programs remain strong and safe and have a well-thought-out and iron-clad strategy. You have made an enormous difference.


In October 2022, I returned to Baltimore to work in financial services. I brought my retired horses, who live on the most beautiful farm within the land trust. My favorite activity has been volunteering as a hospitality shuttle driver at the local steeplechase, the Legacy Chase, and the Maryland 5 Star equestrian events. In 2023, I helped people transport heavy coolers, food, and decoration items down the hill to their patron hospitality designation spot at Shawan Downs. It was a day of fun service, meeting new people and their families, forging great relationships, and having a great time. When people feel they are a part of a community, they do many acts of kindness. I watched many individuals, families, and business colleagues in our community pitch in to help one another on that giant hill. Then, when the races started at 12:30 pm, I ferried the jockeys from the stables to the paddock and said to them, “Good luck and have fun.” It was a surreal and beautiful experience to be a part of such a historically thrilling sport. 


The fact that Maryland cares enough to save the land is outstanding. Land conservation country brings joy to people, land for farmers, and home to nature. Encompassed in green,  one can only be impressed and grateful. Please keep up the great work.

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