County Comment: Agricultural Education Center on Rural Road to Expansion

County Comment
Agricultural Education Center on Rural Road to Expansion
by Norman Bassett
Washington County Public Information Officer

The Washington County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) took a step toward expansion of the Agricultural Education Center Park in its regular meeting on November 15, taking action that could mean construction of a Transportation Museum in the next three to five years.
The Board reached consensus to move ahead with Maryland Senator Don Munson's proposal to introduce legislation to the coming session of the General Assembly that would provide $100,000 in matching funds for a planned fourth museum building.
Jerry Poffenberger, Chairman of the Agricultural Education Center Board of Directors, Ag Center Board member John Barr and County Buildings, Grounds and Parks Director Jim Sterling brought the request before the Board, with concurrences from the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum Committee, the Washington County Agricultural Education Center Board of Directors, and the Washington County Recreation and Parks Advisory Board.
Sterling told the Commissioners that Senator Munson had approached the Ag Center Board of Directors with the concept of building a Transportation related museum. Poffenberger said that the Senator had offered to propose legislation this session to provide a $100,000 matching State grant to "Build and Equip the Transportation Museum". The Ag Center Board has been very active in fund raising for projects in the park, and would seek donations to match those state funds.
The new museum would provide an opportunity for the public to view the progression of transportation that was used to make rural life easier and more productive prior to 1940.
The Agricultural Heritage Museum was completed in 2001 and houses a number of displays dealing with rural home life. A second museum building has been planned that would house antique farm implements and equipment. Last August, representatives of the Maryland Dairy Shrine approached the Board with plans to build a museum and office complex on the site. Those plans are still possible, Sterling said, pending presentation of a business plan to the Commissioners. The fourth planned museum building would house travel items vital to the County's farm community.
In a recent interview, Commissioner John Munson said the museum would be a good addition to the Park.
"They'd have old covered wagons, maybe antique automobiles, anything to do with transportation," Munson said. "I personally think its something that's really needed in Washington County, in fact the whole Ag Center is needed," he said.
The Park currently features a Rural Heritage Farmstead that will be the cornerstone for a proposed Rural Heritage Village. The farmstead area currently contains a log cabin, a log house, a windmill, a corncrib and a pig barn. All were buildings actually used in farming activities that were donated to the center and reconstructed on site. The ultimate goal of the Center is to be able to show future generations the way rural families lived in the early years of Washington County. Plans for the village include a blacksmith shop, a saloon, an undertaker parlor, a doctor's office, a barbershop and a church.
Many other activities take place at the park, including the annual Washington County Agricultural Exposition, antique car shows, tractor pulling events, livestock exhibits, and dog shows.
Commissioner John Munson serves on the Ag Center Board as the ex-officio member from the BOCC, cites the center as an economic development tool and urges folks to visit all of the attractions. The Agricultural Education Center is located on Maryland Route 65 south of Hagerstown near Sharpsburg. The Rural Heritage Museum is open Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. from April through December, and by appointment at 240-313-2839.
Munson was a recent guest on "Commissioners' Comments", a new radio program heard on the Third Thursday of each month at 2:45 p.m. on WJEJ, 1240 AM.