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The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has given Harford County officials the go ahead to develop an agricultural center near Dublin on land partially purchased under the state’s Program Open Space Fund.

The deal could one day lead to the relocation of the Harford County Farm Fair from its longtime home at the Equestrian Center in Bel Air to the prospective ag center site off Route 1 near Route 136.

Northern Harford Sen. Barry Glassman, County Executive David Craig and Council President Billy Boniface reached an agreement with Program Open Space officials earlier this week to use 64 acres in Dublin for the future site of a Harford County Agricultural Exposition Center.

“This project is years away; we are just getting started on it,” Glassman, a Republican, said Thursday, though he added that the project could be completed as soon as five years. “Some day we will have a big expo building.”

The expo center could encompass up to 87 acres across Route 1 from the Ball Park Diner.

The county acquired 22 acres with its own funds and 63.8 adjoining acres with state funds, a total cost of $1.4 million. The acreage has been in the county’s land inventory for a few years, according to John Sullivan, county deputy chief of staff for agricultural affairs.

Glassman said the centerpiece of the expo center will be a giant steel building that will allow for year-round farmer’s markets, a farm museum, 4-H and national livestock shows, auctions, and other agriculture related events.

“We want to try to do this as a nonprofit for the building of the expo center,” he explained. “We don’t envision this on the back of the county budget.”

The expo building will be similar to the Toyota Arena in York County, Pa., and the expo center in Carroll County, which are the closest facilities of their kind to Harford, Glassman said.

Need identified

Even with the Harford County Equestrian Center on Tollgate Road in Bel Air, which is part of larger complex that includes ballfields, the newest section of the Ma & Pa Trail, Annie’s Playground, a working farm owned by the county and another 80 acres of undeveloped land between Route 1 and the Bel Air Bypass, Glassman said he still sees the need for the expo center 10 miles to the north. The Farm Fair has been held at the center since its revival in 1987 and typically draws 50,000 people over five days in late July and early August.

“Those buildings are becoming outdated for animal health and safety,” Glassman said. “The last few years, we had to limit the number of animals children could show.”

A committee made up of various people in the county’s agricultural community has been formed to help with the expo center project.

“This whole idea is a great idea, and it’s long overdue,” Lisa Maxwell, a member of the committee, said. “We have outgrown the equestrian center and the parking down there.”

Bill withdrawn

Glassman had introduced a bill in the current legislative session to allow one agricultural exposition center in each county on land purchased with POS funds.

After the agreement was struck with DNR, Glassman announced Thursday he will withdraw the bill. He said DNR did not want the expo center incorporated into law.

POS officials, according to Glassman, approved the expo center, but had an issue with the commercial office building that will accompany it.

“They were afraid if that was carved out in state law, we would lose federal funds [from Program Open Space,]” Glassman said.

He said Program Open Space funds are to be used only for public recreation and cannot include commercial office space, which is also envisioned for the new ag expo complex.

“We want to do it like a one stop shop,” Glassman said, adding that the office space housing several agricultural agencies, such as 4H, USDA and Maryland Cooperative Extension, is at least seven to 10 years away.

To reconcile the issue, the office space will either be built on the 22 acres acquired with county funds or a land swap will be arranged involving the 65 acres acquired with POS funds.


user comments (1)


user summergurl101 says...

i have to say as a life time harford county resident i will be disappointed if the farm fair was moved from where it is and always was. as a 14 year old i can have a VERY big opinion on stuff such as this. i have been going to the farm fair since i was born. i will be very upset and outraged that they want to move the farm fair. see if as they say in the article is that the barns are old and such why did they spend the money on the new land when they could have used the money to fix up and possibly re-building the already exsiting buildings. this is an outrage to me and i think that it could be changed if they had looked into re-building the buildings instead of just buying another piece of land and building buildings on that property. honestly they are just spending money the county could have used on more important things such as how the roads are being torn up almost everyother year.


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