The PATH of least resistance
Originally published September 09, 2008
Recently, Allegheny Power unveiled details of the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline, a large project to reinforce the electrical infrastructure to the eastern U.S.
The project intends to link a substation in Bedington, W.Va., to another in Kemptown using two sets of high-power lines running independently through Frederick County. The project’s filing date by late 2008 makes it no less than a “run-away train.” Decisions on where to locate these two giant-scale lines scarring the county’s landscape and history are being made as you read this piece and will be completed before we have a chance to offer much input.
Understanding this project’s scale and the unavoidable fact that the lines eventually will go into someone’s property, it becomes imperative that the routing process be transparent and in the best interest of future generations. Among the many riches of Frederick County, its proud American Civil War history and its beautiful farming landscapes are unique. In this context, we take this opportunity to voice concerns about a potential segment of the PATH Project in Southern Frederick County.
This segment overbuilds smaller lines traveling over the northern part of Historic Buckeystown before crossing the Monocacy River. In the Urbana district, it traverses Baker Valley and the Hope Hill neighborhood; it follows Park Mills Road until crossing I-270, where it heads south along I-270 to and through the township of Urbana.
Should this segment be used by the PATH Project, an irreparable injury of the region would occur with a price to be paid by this and future generations as we all will stare at a desecrated historic and agricultural landscape dominated by high-power electrical towers.
Amongst the most important historical landmarks impacted by this line segment is the Monocacy Battlefield. The National Park Service, at significant cost to taxpayers (all of us), has purchased land, restored property and created networks of trails over Brooks Hill east of the Worthington Farm.
Brooks Hill is a small range separating the Monocracy River from Baker Valley. Wave after wave of Confederate troops advanced on the side of this hill about 150 years ago after crossing the Monocacy River to attack Union troops positioned between the Worthington and Thomas farms. This same range could now be the site for intrusive high-power towers placed on the adjacent Snow Hill Farm, degrading the view shed and historic value of the park and limiting any potential for future improvement or expansion.
The Snow Hill Farm itself has its own historic value, serving as encampment grounds to Gen. Ricketts’ retreating Union troops. The property is under easement by the Maryland Historic Trust by a grant from the Civil War Preservation Trust calling for the restoration of the property to conditions circa the Battle of the Monocacy (1864) and to protect the rural character of Baker Valley. To allow deployment of such power lines will set a dangerous precedent, diminishing future assurances for protection of any property entrusted to a state or federal agency.
Several properties listed in the Maryland Historic Trust will also be impacted by the project, including the David O. Thomas Farmstead, the Hope Hill Methodist Church, and the two-classroom African-American School, the Hampton School and Hope Hill Cemetery. The cemetery remains a testimony to the segregated nature of the original Hope Hill church by the concentration of African-American family names in the northeast corner of the lot.
AP claims their mission is to keep the electricity flowing. We are troubled to say that in AP’s corporate environment, where decisions are made at levels far removed from the ground, outsourced to out-of-state contractors or guided by time and budget constraints, what we value as our history might register to AP executives as noise.
We urge readers to visit the park and see the wonders of this unique piece of American history and visit the PATH website (www.pathtransmission.com) and voice opposition to attempts to degrade its quality and future. To state and federal officials, custodians of our natural resources and history, we urge them to execute their duties by protecting this unique piece of land and history on behalf of future generations.
Donalda & Camilo Toro write from Frederick.