Gary Mackes: Torrey Brown was an asset to Wicomico’s preservation

Wicomico County’s citizens benefit from a regionally recognized park system. I can’t imagine replicating it in today’s economy.

As this system was built over the last several decades, I’ve had the opportunity to witness the vision, generosity and efforts of countless individuals who contributed to its development.

Dr. Torrey Brown was one of these individuals.

Brown served as the secretary of the State Department of Natural Resources for 12 years, working under Govs. Harry Hughes and William Donald Schaefer. His vision and stewardship guided policy and tactics to initiate the effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, restore a depleted rockfish population, develop trails and protect environmentally sensitive land.

Here in Wicomico County, his support enabled the protection and expansion our park system, without requiring local tax funding.

Brown was instrumental in preserving, founding and protecting Pemberton Historical Park, Roaring Point Park and Pirates’ Wharf.

When Pemberton Historical Park was threatened by an incompatible housing development, Brown stepped in to protect the park by providing a special grant to purchase the 240-acre adjacent tract.

The proposed development would have butted up to Pemberton Park’s manor house and surrounded the park on three sides, including a waterfront island. Later, he stepped up to purchase Roaring Point Park, a 33-acre site along the Nanticoke River which now serves as a popular fishing and swimming area.

Brown’s final contribution to Wicomico’s park system involved the acquisition of Pirates’ Wharf, a 340-acre site featuring 3,000 feet of deep-water shoreline along the Wicomico River.

To my knowledge, the site is one of the last undeveloped areas on the Nanticoke and Wicomico Rivers which is suitable for park use. This ensures future generations an opportunity to develop boat ramps, a marina, and/or regional park on a beautiful and unique tract.

Dr. Brown passed away on Easter Day of this year, but his legacy both in the state of Maryland and here in Wicomico County deserves recognition and celebration.

It is only fitting to acknowledge his efforts in ensuring that this and future generations have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of Wicomico County’s outdoors.

Gary W. Mackes is director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department.


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