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Here is the letter sent to the Howard County Antique Farm Machinery Club and below is additional information:

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Additional Information

  • The Howard County Antique Farm Machinery Club is a volunteer organization founded in 1995 with the goal of developing and maintaining a Farm Museum in Howard County.  The Club has 214 members, 119 life members, and is comprised of people from all over the World, but mostly Howard County citizens.  Clink here to learn more about the Club.

  • All maintenance, educational events sponsored by the Museum, and Safety related activities are conducted by Club Volunteer staff, except when contractors have been hired by the Club to complete work outside the ability of the volunteer organization.

  • The Club was granted a lease to West Friendship Park in 2005 by Howard County.  Prior to the Club leasing the land, the Hebb House was used for administrative offices and the land was used to plant trees by school programs to off-set environmental impacts of other projects within the county.  Much of the land was filled with illegally dumped trash and the existing buildings were dilapidated.  See the photos below documenting what the grounds looked like prior to the Club lease.

  • The Museum / Club has been awarded three state bond grants, several trail grants, and several miscellaneous grants for the sole purpose of building and maintaining the Howard County Living Farm Heritage Museum.  Howard County has not provided any grants or assisted in the application of any grants to the Club or Museum.

  • In the early days of the lease, the Club was fined one time for cleaning up a hedge row that was full of small trees, vines, trash, tires, and rusted farm equipment.  The area of the hedge row is now used for equipment displays.  The Club did pay the fine and learned that nothing could be done on the land without prior approval.  Howard County Recreation and Parks relaxed that stance after the first five years of the lease and permitted removal of any vegetation less than 4 inches in width without specific approval.  Nothing was done on the Museum grounds without Recreation and Park’s approval.

  • The Club / Museum has not received any other citations or warnings for safety, environmental, or any other reasons.

  • The Club rented the property to organizations to hold events and festivals to generate revenue to run the Museum.  Many times, the events or festivals created situations that were not beneficial to the Museum grounds (damage to the grounds, excessive trash left behind) and the events or festivals were not rented to again.

  • For 16 years the Club was viewed by Howard County as the stewards of West Friendship Park and maintained areas outside the lease property, including trail maintenance, tree maintenance, mowing of grass, and snow removal.

  • In May 2023, The Howard County Living Farm Heritage Museum was given an Honorary Resolution for National Historic Preservation month by the Howard County Council for “their dedication to historic preservation in Howard County”.  See photo of certificate at the bottom of the page.

  • In May 2023, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball gave the Howard County Living Farm Heritage Museum a Certificate of Recognition "to celebrate the success of historic preservation efforts", in which it states "Nothing is more valuable than giving our history new life, new purpose and a new place in our hearts and minds.  I commend our hard-working and valuable community advocates for their leadership and partnership to help build the bridge between past and future." See photo of certificate at the bottom of the page.

  • Once the Museum has vacated the Park, the County will have 6 existing buildings (existing pre-lease) that were renovated from dilapidation (see photos below) and six building constructed during the life of the lease. These buildings will be used by the County without any cost to them for construction or maintenance thus far.

  • None of these buildings have construction/use and occupancy permits, except for the Main Display Building, which has all permitting as required.  The existing pre-lease buildings were included in the lease as existing buildings and were renovated (including inspections by the County). The buildings constructed during the life of the lease were inspected by the County and the Museum/Club was told by the County that the buildings did not require permits since they were agricultural buildings.  Not until recently did Rec and Parks state verbally that all buildings, including the pre-lease buildings required use and occupancy permits.  Use and occupancy permits cannot be given to the pre-lease buildings without information from the County on the original construction details. The County has not granted use and occupancy permits for the buildings constructed during the life of the lease, now stating that all buildings must be re-inspected for safety. 

  • The Club / Museum was not aware that the letter from the County was coming, and did not / has not reached out to any of the County Council members about this situation.  We welcome the County Council members to reach out to the Club if they feel this is an important issue.  We have asked the community to reach out in an effort to show the County Council and Administration what the Museum means to the community.

  • The Museum has had regular Fire Marshal and Environmental Inspector visits with no citations or warnings throughout the life of the Museum.

Then - Tenant House 

Then - Two Bay Garage 

Then - Dairy Barn 

Then - Tenant House

Now - One Room Schoolhouse

Now - Two Bay Garage 

Now - Dairy Barn 

Now - House Before Electricity

Howard County and West Friendship Park

  • Howard County used Program Open Space grants through the State of Maryland Department of Natural Resources to purchase the Hebb Farm in the early 1970s and the Harless Farm in the early 1980s.

  • Land acquired by Local and State Governments through the Program Open Space grant process “may not be used for any purpose other than public recreation or public open space and will be restricted to such uses by covenants in the deed to the property.”

  • Land acquired by Local and State Governments through the Program Open Space grant process CAN be converted to other uses if:

    • “another public need takes priority over a planned recreation or open space use, and a conversion is determined by the local government to be the only alternative.”

    • “All conversions of State-funded parks and open space must demonstrate a net positive benefit to the public. The applicant should demonstrate that the site or the jurisdiction's open space resources will significantly benefit from the proposed conversion.”

    • Land must be substituted for the land that is being converted out of Program Open Space, must be of higher value than the converted land, but can be several small parcels to make up the total acreage.

    • https://dnr.maryland.gov/land/Documents/POS/localposmanual_2006.pdf, page 66 and 67

  • The Howard County Antique Farm Machinery Club and the Howard County Living Farm Heritage Museum have not received any grants through the Program Open Space grant process.

  • West Friendship Park IS NOT currently and has never been in Agricultural Preservation.

  • See Rural Land Preservation Map of Howard County from January 2023 for classifications of the land.

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If you would like to help the fight to preserve the heritage of Howard County, please Click Here to proceed to our Donations page and donate to our legal fund.  We have already spent millions of dollars to create and maintain the Howard County Living Farm Heritage Museum and we are prepared to spend millions more to fight to keep it alive, but we can only do it with your help!

Here are the link to all the media reports on this issue:

Lancaster Farming Article

WBAL TV News Segment

Baltimore Sun Article A

Baltimore Sun Article B

STATEMENT MADE BY THE CLUB ON 10/25/2023

We are aware of the Executive Summary created by the Department of Recreation and Parks in reference to the lease of West Friendship Park by the Howard County Antique Farm Machinery Club.  We have read through the summary so many times and it makes us incredibly upset.  IF all of the things listed in the summary were taking place, why weren’t we issued citations? Why was our lease continually renewed? Why were we allowed to continue for well over 16 years? And only in these past few months has any of this come to light?  None of this makes sense to us.  We had a wonderful working relationship with DRP for 16 years.  DRP spent regular time in the park and saw all the things that we were doing. DRP staff and our volunteers have worked hand in hand assisting with each other’s on-site programs and while partnering in joint programs.

We asked questions, we asked about “building permits” and we were told “no” because the buildings were deemed agricultural by the County at the time of construction.  Why, after 16 years, is it suddenly wrong?  Why is a building that WAS constructed in 2007 suddenly required to meet current Codes and Standards?  We have been working with the County Department of Licensing and Permits the entire life of the construction project of the James Clark Main Display Building and never once were we told the building did not meet Code requirements. Again, if we had done wrong, why wasn’t this brought to our attention way before now??? The first time that we ever heard of a need for “use and occupancy permits” was in a meeting on March 24th, 2023. And we immediately started to look into what was needed to acquire the permits. To the extent that we hired a company to guide us through the process. DRP was notified that we were taking steps to acquire the use and occupancy permits as soon as possible so we could resume using the buildings. If our lease had not been terminated in late August, we would most likely have had the permits by now. It really makes you wonder if they ever really wanted us to get them in the first place!!!

This has been a lesson for us. We, as a volunteer non-profit organization made up of people from outside government and county politics, trusted DRP and Howard County Government as a whole. It was always our belief that they were helping and guiding us in the process of moving the Museum forward, allowing us to build as we needed, and grow as needed to fit the needs of the Museum. If we were doing something wrong, why didn’t they tell us?  And if we ignored them as they said we did, why didn’t they put our transgressions in writing and take the appropriate action then? 

Our attorney received the MPIA documents and is in the process of reviewing them but has stated that at this time there are no documents that substantiate the statements made in the executive summary. We as an organization have not seen the documents and they will stay in the possession of our attorney.

We have consistently asked for answers to 3 basic questions. #1.) Is the County open to the Howard County Antique Farm Machinery Club continuing to operate and run the Living Farm Heritage Museum at West Friendship Park?  YES or NO!!! #2.) Provide us the list of specific safety concerns with the buildings, the environmental concerns, and the programmatic concerns with the programs that we have offered and when were we notified of any of these problems.  A simple list with dates!!! #3.) If there was no chance that anything could be worked out that would allow the Farm Club and Museum to stay, then give us an extension to the 90 days to vacate until May 31, 2024. Especially, since, 23 days of the 90-day time frame had already lapsed while we were trying to get a meeting with the County. In that meeting which took place September 21, 2023, Question #1. Was ignored, Question #2 was ignored and the response to question #3 was, “we can give you an answer in a couple of days”. Their answer came in the form of an email on October 6th, 2023, 15 days later, while our clock was still ticking. After receiving the October 6th letter, we immediately responded back requesting clarification to a number of statements referring to the extension timeline presented by the DRP “which strictly regulated” the removal of our items. We have never received a response with that clarification.  

By now, it is abundantly clear that the County has made their decision, even without stating, that the answer to Question #1 is NO!!! and it also appears that they will not be swayed. As a result, we are working hard to remove all of our artifacts and materials from the property.  We are still awaiting a response to our questions on the October 6, 2023, letter about the vague right of entry agreement which was giving the club until May 31, 2024, to remove some of our less demanding artifacts, while still demanding that most of our major items be removed by the original November 27 2023 deadline, some things by December 31, 2023 and some items by March 31st 2024, and yet others by May 31, 2024. With no apparent consideration to the effects of winter weather, muddy and soft ground and which artifacts need the most protection while being relocated. Their October 6th letter only confused the issue and lacking the requested clarification, it is currently neither helpful nor does it make any sense.

We are heartbroken about the way that this has gone down and the apparent outcome. Although we have had the support of many people throughout the community who continue to support the Antique Farm Machinery Club’s Living Farm Heritage Museum and have expressed their overwhelming desire for us to stay at West Friendship Park, it doesn’t appear like that is to be. At this point we must look toward the future and focus on the safety and storage of our artifacts. We don’t understand why the DRP is sticking so strongly to the 90 days which forces us to move many of our most precious artifacts in such a hurried manor. The Director of the DRP clearly stated in the October meeting of the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board, “that they currently did not have a plan for that property” So, what’s the rush?

It is disappointing to say the least, when literally hundreds of citizens within a community can reach out on an issue expressing their support for a cause and never even get the slightest response from our county executive. And when a call to action from those citizens can’t even sway our District 5 Council member, to rally the entire county council to intervene and at the very least demand transparency on the issue.  Disappointing indeed!!! Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying “To be silent when one should speak out makes cowards of men”, and Dr. Martin Luther King was quoted as saying “The time is always right to do the right thing” Well, it really gives one pause as to the caliber of leaders that we have in public positions today. Without transparency we are left with only more questions as to why!!! 

At this point, just give us a reasonable time frame to remove over 18 years of artifacts and materials and we will be gone. Our hope is that the County provides the citizens of Howard County with a transparent answer as to how West Friendship Park will be used in the future.

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts to everyone who stood by the Howard County Antique Farm Machinery Club and the Howard County Living Farm Heritage Museum.  We greatly appreciate all that you have done! We now look to the future…

On 10/27/2023, Club members met with DRP staff to discuss timeline for removal of artifacts.  No written agreements have resulted from that meeting as of 10/31/2023.

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