About seven Dallas residents attended a preliminary meeting at the Back Mountain Memorial Library on March 31 to discuss the creation of a wildlife sanctuary in the borough.
Andrew Duda, of Grasonville, Md., hopes to preserve 17 undeveloped lots on Pineview Road that were owned by his recently deceased brother, Paul, by creating a wildlife sanctuary that could be maintained by the community.
"I'm the executor of the estate, so I've either got to carry on the mission, or sell them and destroy what's there," said Duda.
Duda hopes a group of local residents could band together and form a nonprofit organization to keep the land undeveloped in addition to not having to pay taxes it.
He said his brother fell ill in May 2011 and stopped paying taxes on the land. Duda had to pay about $15,000 of his own money in back taxes to maintain control over the lots.
The land includes an open space, a wooded area and a pond, which Duda said would be "perfect" for a sanctuary.
"It's identical to the suggestion of how to create or design a sanctuary," he said.
Duda said the only work that may need to be done to the property is the creation of a dirt walking path and the installation of a few benches to make it accessible to the community.
Residents from Pineview Road and nearby Maplewood Avenue attended the meeting to discuss the idea's potential as well as concerns about the project.
Paul Donlin, of Maplewood Avenue, had concerns about parking and maintenance of the site and didn't understand why the area couldn't just be left alone.
Duda said the Dallas community should be the sanctuary's target audience because that's where it will be located. Therefore, he said, it would make sense for most residents to walk to the place, eliminating the need for parking areas.
Bill Dierolf, of Pineview Road, understands the concerns of his neighbors, but feels the sanctuary would be a good fit for the area.
"It's already like a private park to me," said Dierolf, who lives next door to the property. "There's geese nesting there and they honk at me if I get too close."
Dierolf supports the idea because of the area's natural beauty and thinks it will only add to recreation in the borough.
"I'm in favor of it because I don't know what the alternative is," he said. "…It's always important to hold onto any bits of land you can, and it would be nice to have a local place where you can go and sit and watch the birds."
Duda is trying to spark interest in the local community because he doesn't live in the area, though he grew up in a house next to the property.
He would help locals with the process of becoming a nonprofit organization and filing paperwork to make the land tax exempt, but fundraising and maintenance would need to be done by those directly involved in the project.
"It's a noble cause," he said.
Duda hopes to hold another meeting in May.
For more information about the budding wildlife sanctuary planned for Dallas Borough, contact Andrew Duda by phone at 757-350-1245 or send a letter to him at 20 Greenwood Shoals, Grasonville, MD 21638.