California, MD – Back in the 1970s, I went to a Halloween party at a huge house that stood at the end of what was then Myrtle Point Road.
The house is long gone, but Myrtle Point remains.
The land fronting the Patuxent River in St. Mary’s County just north of the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge was once slated for a golf course and conference center.
A water tower was built for the huge development, but funding fell through and the land sat dormant.
In 1997, 192 acres were purchased with Maryland Open Space Program funding. In its day the property had been home to a farm, an Italian embassy retreat and a failed residential development.
“It’s pretty much been open to public use since then,” said St. Mary’s County Director of Recreation and Parks Brian Loewe.
The county approved a master plan for the park in 2005, he said, and upgraded parking lots, adding picnic tables and amenities including a canoe/kayak launch.
But Loewe gives a lot of credit to the average county citizens who took an active interest in the park.
The Friends of Myrtle Point, a volunteer citizens group, has been a continuing force toward the park’s development and preservation. Their efforts over three decades have enhanced and shaped the park’s contours and trail system, which they help the county maintain.
“They’re still pretty active,” Loewe noted.
During this summer-long series on hiking trails in Southern Maryland, I saved some of the best ones for last, and this is one of them. Myrtle Point is as wonderful as it is elaborate. I’ve walked the trails there many times over the past dozen years or so, harvested raspberries and walnuts from the abundant resources.
There are trails that border on magical.
Kingfisher Trail is one of my favorites, winding through mowed grass until you come to a young growth pine forest, a stunningly beautiful place.
The trail eventually intersects with Deer Woods Trail to the left and Berry Lane to the right.
Berry Lane takes you to the section of the park fronting the Solomons Bridge, also to one of two public beaches on the shores of the Patuxent.
Access often depends on the tides, despite boardwalks installed by the county. At times it can be tricky, but that doesn’t stop hopeful fishermen prospecting for white perch, croakers or spot.
If you take a left off Kingfisher to Deer Woods Trail, you come to one of the most enchanting hiking trails in all of Southern Maryland.
A mix of old growth forest and new growth, trails wind through groves of cedar embraced by English ivy, paths that lead past the Patuxent to the east and Mill Creek in the north and west.
For two miles the path weaves, twists and turns along ragged shorelines with wondrous hideaways of moss and unique sights: otters, bald eagles, herons and an abundance of local songbirds.
On a recent hike, I got to see the bald eagle up close and personal and several deer greeted me in the parking lot.
Myrtle Point also comes with its own ghost story, a mysterious but elegant woman who appears to be dripping wet in a gold evening gown. She has appeared to visitors once or twice in the not-too-distant past.
There is money in the St. Mary’s County budget for future development at Myrtle Point. The FY2017 budget calls for $150,000 in 2020 and in 2022, a projected $2.5 million will be appropriate for upgrades and facilities at the park.
Those folks, like me for instance, need not worry, however. Loewe said plans even into the future do not call for major changes to Myrtle Point.
“The plan is to keep it in a passive use,” Loewe stressed. “That is strongly supported by the Friends of Myrtle Point. We would like to keep it in a passive state.”
Contact Joseph Norris at email@example.com