Prince Frederick, MD – It was a chilly day for a walk, but the faithful gathered at Double Oak Park in Prince Frederick Saturday, March 4 to celebrate for what for the American Chestnut Land Trust (ACLT) was a small but rather historic event.
They were crossing the creek.
For the first time in almost eight decades, the Double Oak hiking trail and the Parker’s Creek Trail in the south near Scientist Cliffs will be connected by a raft and trails carved out of the woodland by ACLT volunteers and an Eagle Scout.
To get to the site the 40 or so hearty souls gathered on a chilly March morning to hike a good two miles down what used to be known by Calvert locals as Parker’s Creek Road, a winding dirt road through steep terrain.
In the late 1600s, a group of Quakers left Virginia, invited by Second Lord Baltimore Cecilius Calvert to participate in his experiment of religious tolerance. They settled in the Parker’s Creek area of Calvert County. A hundred years ago, there was a bridge that crossed the creek, allowing residents in the Parker’s Creek area to reach the pier at Dares Wharf, where their agricultural harvest could be shipped to market. In 1940, a storm took out the bridge connecting farmers to their means of shipping their products.
“Those of you walking down Parker’s Creek Road have a sense now of what that road was like 100 years ago,” ACLT Executive Director Greg Bowen told the gathering. “My dad growing up on the Calvert side said in those days they were driving a Model T Ford and those guys would have to get out of the car and push it up the hill. I can imagine they would have to push it up the hill. You’ll find the same situation on the other side,” he added. “The Parker’s Creek community was a vital farming community 100 years ago. It was all woods on both sides, dotted with farms. When the bridge washed out in 1940, they lost connections not only socially with the people on both sides, but also to get to Dares Wharf, to get your crops over on the other side. It was a major loss.”
Fast-forward 77 years.
“Just over 30 years ago on the south side of the creek, the American Chestnut Land Trust was formed and bought the first 400 acres of land,” Bowen said. “But they had this big vision of protecting the Parker’s Creek and Hungerford Creek watershed. A pretty big vision with one just one acquisition under hand,” he joked. “However, by 1994 they jumped the creek with the purchase of Double Oak Farm. There have been marvelous things happening since then.”
The ACLT now owns about 1,000 acres, he explained, adding that through a partnership with the Nature Conservancy and the State of Maryland, and private landowners, there are now approximately 4,000 acres in preservation on both sides of Governor’s Run and Parker’s Creek. There are 19 miles of hiking trails and now, the two are connected.
“It’s like two little separate preserves and we wanted to connect the two preserves,” Bowen said.
“It’s been in the works for a little while, but there were several problems we had to solve before we could make this trail happen, not the least of which was crossing the creek,” said ACLT Land Manager Autumn Phillips-Lewis. “Some of our most innovative volunteers came up with this raft across the creek. Where else can you go and take a raft across a creek? There are a lot of bridges, but here you get to do a Tom Sawyer and go across on the raft.
“Another thing we had to work on was the route between here and the south,” she admitted. “It’s quite steep terrain. There’s a lot of up and down steep grades and six stream crossings we had to address.”
Eagle Scout Ted Danielson constructed steps in some the steep grades on the south side, she noted, thanking the many volunteers who contributed to the effort.
“I just really wanted to thank everyone for putting it in in the middle of winter,” Phillips-Lewis said. “As usual, you persevered and made it happen.”
Contact Joseph Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org