Almost 90 percent of Maryland residents support the use of public funds for land conservation and agree that some areas should be left in their natural state forever, according to a recent survey.

The survey, done for the Maryland Greenways Commission, also found that three out of four residents believe it is important to have natural resources close to where they work and live, and a majority said they would be inclined to move if existing open spaces were lost in their communities.

“These results clearly indicate Marylanders care deeply about their natural resources and recognize the important role they play in their quality of life and in making the state attractive to tourists, businesses and development,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin.

The survey was taken to gauge the public’s awareness and attitudes toward land conservation, as well as the level of support for using state dollars on natural resources protection and recreational lands.

“The survey shows that Maryland’s Program Open Space funds and the work of the Maryland Greenways Commission need to expand the state’s network of greenways and open space,” said Teresa Moore, executive director of the Maryland Greenways Commission.

The Greenways Commission was established in 1990 to create a statewide network of greenways: narrow corridors of open spaces that tie together parks, historic sites and natural areas. The commission is involved in planning and implementing greenway projects in every region of the state. More than 1,000 miles of potential corridors have been identified, in addition to the 900 existing miles of greenways.

A plurality of the respondents, 48 percent, felt that state and local governments were doing enough to preserve natural resources and open space in their communities.

Another study recently released by the Department of Natural Resources indicated that Maryland would have to protect 70,000 more acres — an area roughly twice the size of Washington, D.C. — if residents were to enjoy the same access to forest, parks and other public lands in the year 2010.

Even conservation of this magnitude would fail to keep pace with rising population and private development. State officials say greenways are a cost-effective way to meet this need.

The survey found that:

  • More than 80 percent of those surveyed in each region of the state feel land conservation should keep pace with development. More than half expect development to increase in their area in the next five years.

  • Those surveyed say protecting natural resources is the most important reason for land conservation. About 72 percent say funding for Program Open Space, obtained from a real estate transfer tax of 0.5 percent of the sale price of all real estate, should be maintained or increased.

  • Ninety percent support the development of walking and bike paths in their communities, and 86 percent said they would support converting an abandoned railroad corridor in their community into a recreational trail.

  • While only 6 percent say they currently walk or bike to work, about one-fifth of those surveyed say they would use a trail system for commuting five days a week if it were safe and convenient, and almost one in five said they would use a trail system for commuting two or three times a week.

The telephone survey of 800 Maryland residents was conducted this spring by PFK Consulting, a national consulting firm based in Alexandria, Va., that specializes in economic analysis.

Survey Questions

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources recently hired a consulting firm to conduct an independent survey to learn about Marylanders’ attitudes about the state’s role in land conservation. Here are the answers to some of the 30 questions on the telephone survey of 800 residents statewide:

1. Conserving land for public parks, recreation and water quality protection is a good use of public funds.

Agree — 89.5 percent

Disagree — 8.8 percent

2. State and local governments are doing enough to preserve natural resources and open space in my community.

Agree — 47.6 percent

Disagree — 37.2 percent

3. If there was an inactive railroad corridor in my community, I would support converting it into a trail for local residents.

Agree — 86.3 percent

Disagree — 7.8 percent

4. Land conservation should keep pace with the rate of land development.

Agree — 84.1 percent

Disagree — 9.1 percent

5. If I were buying a home, I would be willing to pay more for a home that had parks or natural areas nearby.

Agree — 76 percent

Disagree — 19.4 percent