The Washington Times - September 13, 2008, 04:58PM

You would think that during wallet-emptying days of $3.65- to $4-per-gallon gasoline, constantly rising prices at the local grocery store, and calls for state budget cuts, the governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, would have enough sense to put the needless spending of taxpayers’ money on the back burner.

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However, he recently announced that his Board of Public Works has approved $338,396 for the construction of a visitor’s pavilion at Wye Oak State Park in Talbot County. Am I wrong to assume that Mr. O’Malley could stop the project if he wanted to? After all, he is the governor.

 

In case you’re new to the state, the little park once was home to the magnificent Wye Oak, the biggest white oak in the United States. It was Maryland’s official state tree and it was indeed a sight to behold — until the 460-year-old oak gave up the ghost and fell over during a nasty thunderstorm in the summer of 2002.

 

No one disagrees with Gov. O’Malley when he says, “It stood as a source of inspiration and awe to thousands of visitors; a connection with our history, with nature and with the conservation spirit that is the legacy of Marylanders.”

 

But we take issue with the Guv saying that a pavilion is needed to, “keep that important connection alive.”

 

The scheduled wood frame pavilion will have benches, an interpretive display of the history of the Wye Oak and a young oak sapling. Another display will house a huge cross section of the trunk of the original tree. Construction is scheduled to be completed next spring.

 

When a group of us discussed this expenditure of funds for something that in days of a teetering economy really isn’t needed, all of us agreed that perhaps the $338,000-plus might better be used to help make life a little easier for some poor people who are truly struggling this year. One of the guys, Jim, said, “I see this as nothing more than a gross and total waste of our tax dollars. Sure, preserve a battlefield, remember the Maine, but gee-whiz, the tree is long gone.”

 

Another thought about spending tax money where it actually might do some good would be to provide plenty of gasoline and perhaps a couple of new boats for the Maryland Natural Resources Police. I heard somewhere recently that the state suggested the fish and game cops ought not be using so much of the expensive fuel.

I can just see the faces of certain commercial fishermen and, yes, even some recreational anglers, who might be persuaded to break laws regarding the keeping of undersized or too many rockfish if the long arm of the law suddenly has been shortened.

 

I like the NRP patrols to be out there, checking fishing boats, including mine if they care to.