By Greg Bowen, Executive Director, and Randi and Peter Vogt, Charter Members
Bernie Fowler was a gentle man, a gentleman, a visionary, and a natural leader. He had a long-standing, positive impact on Calvert County and on the American Chestnut Land Trust.
Bernie was first elected as a County Commissioner in 1970, just as major events were shaking up this sleepy, economically depressed county. A nuclear power plant was about to be constructed. Pennsylvania Avenue (MD 4) was being extended into the county and Washington, D.C. residents were seeking affordable lots in the rural countryside. County population was beginning to take off. Bernie began to despair over seeing Calvert’s farm communities disappear. Meanwhile, already in 1969— even before estuarine scientists- he had noted a deterioration in water quality in his beloved Patuxent River.
At his direction, the Calvert County Board of Commissioners asked staff to research the current conditions of the county and to begin a comprehensive planning process with the extensive involvement of county citizens. The resultant 1974 Pleasant Peninsula Plan is still reflected in the best of Calvert County’s planning, including the creation of the state’s first county land preservation program. This led to the nation’s first Transferable Development Rights (TDR) program. The Plan also prohibited all new county waste-water treatment plants from discharging treated effluent directly into waterways.
The TDR Program, and the later addition of the Purchase and Retirement programs, have preserved or helped preserve two thirds of all the lands protected in Calvert, including nearly all of the lands that ACLT was able to purchase and preserve during the first two decades. After leaving elected office, Bernie became a member and strong supporter of ACLT. In 1994 he gave a keynote speech at the inauguration event for what we now call Double Oak Farm.
Back in the 1970’s, he instilled in Randi Vogt (founding ACLT member) and me — both of us long-term planners at the Department of Planning and Zoning – a passion for environmentally sound farm and forestland preservation. After first working with Bernie as volunteers, we were both inspired to pursue a planning profession.
Bernie “Never, Never, Never” gave up on his efforts to restore the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay, a message he repeated this past June, his final Wade In. It is time for the rest of us to pick up the mantle.
View Randi Vogt’s Interview with Bernie Fowler on the Subject of Land Use Planning – October 2014 (Calvert Marine Museum Oral Histories Series).