Ben Boniface Kayak Poker Run event draws over 100 on Bush River

Over 100 people participated in the Harford Land Trust’s Ben Boniface Kayak Poker Run from Flying Point Park on Saturday, July 7. Paddlers enjoyed a 3-mile circuit in Otter Point Creek, collecting playing cards at five stops on publically and privately preserved land. Stops included the Bosely Conservancy, owned by the Izaak Walton League of America – Harford County chapter, the Anita C. Leight Estuary Center, and other properties preserved by the Harford Land Trust.IMG 7594

Now in its seventh year, the land trust hosts the event in partnership with the Ben Boniface Memorial Fund. The event encourages enjoyment of Harford County’s many waterways through kayaking, canoeing, and standup paddling. Proceeds support the Harford Land Trust’s mission of conserving open space and natural resources in Harford County. In prior years, the land trust has hosted the event on Broad Creek near Whiteford and on the Chesapeake from Tydings Memorial Park in Havre de Grace.

The event was followed by a lunch and awards ceremony at Harford County’s Flying Point Park in Edgewood. Top prize winners included Russell Jacobson, Alan Walsh, and Jennifer Bieschke.

The event was made possible through generous sponsorship and support from the Ben Boniface Memorial Fund, Jones Junction, the Office of Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, Klein’s ShopRite, Lassen, Marine & Webster, Harry and Eileen Webster, Autumn Sky Outfitters, H. Turney McKnight, Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit, Harford County Parks & Recreation, and the Anita C. Leight Estuary Center.

Founded in 1991, the Harford Land Trust has directly preserved over 1,300 acres of farmland, forest, and wetlands, and assisted in the preservation of thousands more.  Visit www.harfordlandtrust.org for more information.

Harford Land Trust provides Edgewood home for fire fighter training burn

HLT was very proud to partner with the Abingdon Fire Company on June 2 for a controlled training burn on our Welzenbach Farm on Willoughby Beach Road in Edgewood. 

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We acquired the property through our partnership with Aberdeen Proving Ground three years ago.

Unfortunately, the home had fallen into disrepair before HLT acquired the property. We assessed it for needed repairs which were numerous and costly. HLT also engaged with the Historical Society which didn’t not find the structure to have any documented historical significance. However, we do share the sincere affection the Edgewood community has for the home. We studied multiple alternatives, but in the end felt that removing the home was the best solution for our organization and the community given the risks that come with a permanently vacant home.

Over a year ago, we began discussions with the Abingdon Fire Company about the possibility of a training burn. This option proved to be significantly more time consuming and costly than a traditional demolition. The permitting process and home preparation requirements are extensive. Our staff and volunteers have dedicated countless hours to this project.

One June 2, both the Abingdon Fire Company and the APG Fire Department conducting over a dozen training evolutions providing invaluable learning to the fire fighters. After each crew’s evolution, the team debriefed about the experience with senior leaders providing feedback.

We thank our members and the Edgewood community for their support with this project. This was a difficult decision but we are so thankful that removal of the house provided such a unique training opportunity for our community fire fighters. The property will be permanently protected from residential subdivision and will remain an environmental and scenic asset to the community. We continue to rent the ground for agricultural use to continue the property’s rich legacy.

HLT to partner with Abingdon Fire Company for training exercise in Edgewood

As you drive along Willoughby Beach Road, you see signs indicating the 266 acres of permanently protected land by HLT. One of these properties is the Welzenbach Farm, purchased by the Trust in January 2016. Since then, we have continued the farming lease with Jones Family Farm, hosted Harford County’s Arbor Day Event during which we planted hundreds of trees with community members, improved a stream buffer, performed studies on a future erosion project, and carefully evaluated the long term use of the property and its benefits to the Edgewood community.

As we responsibly manage all our properties, we sometimes have to make tough decisions. One of those decisions is to remove the structures on this property.  We know the old Welzenbach home has been a landmark since 1900 and it will be heartbreaking for many to see it go.  This decision was not made lightly but we are confident that it is the right decision for safety reasons and will allow expanded community enjoyment of the property in the long run.  We have offered the house and outbuildings to the Abingdon Fire Company for a training exercise. 

After careful inspection of the house, it was determined to provide an excellent training burn due to its age and construction. According to the Abingdon Fire Company, “There is no substitute for live fire training; especially, [training] in a home within our service area.” Unfortunately, suitable donated homes that are amenable to training burns are rarely available. Training academies attempt to simulate fire conditions but there is big difference in the quality of the training exercise. Typically, local fire companies train at West Chester Tactical Village, which is costly, results in wear and tear on the companies’ apparatus, and requires the department to leave their duty area for the day.

Our volunteer land stewards have been preparing for the demolition by removing all items required by the Harford County Health Department, the Harford County Department of Inspection, Licenses, & Permits, and the Abingdon Fire Company.  There will be a longer period of smoke than a typical house fire, because fires will be set, extinguished, and reset to facilitate training.  Unlike an accidental house fire, all toxins (asphalt tiles/shingles, cleaning chemicals, etc.) have been removed. We do not know the date when this will occur as it cannot happen on a windy or unfavorable day. But the next time you drive down Willoughby Beach Road, it might look a bit different. We appreciate everyone’s understanding of the need to do this for the safety of the community and our volunteers. 

HLT signs purchase agreement for Perryman Forest

HLT is extremely pleased to report that we have secured donations and pledges of $935,000, the agreed purchase price for the 32-acre Perryman Forest. The Trust entered into a purchase and sale agreement for the property in March 2018. This binding agreement specifies the sale price and terms under which HLT will purchase the property. The sale is contingent on many pieces still falling into place, but the biggest hurdle—funding—was just overcome.

Following an initial commitment of 90% of the purchase price from the U.S. Army (through Aberdeen Proving Ground’s Army Compatible Use Buffer Program), we began a public fundraising campaign in November 2017.  Generous supporters donated approximately $19,000 for the preservation of this important property on the Bush River with over 60 households contributing. See a full listing of supporters on page 4.

HLT’s communication about the importance of this project and the strong community support came to the attention of the Harford County Department of Public Works. The Watershed Protection and Restoration team, led by Scott Kearby and Christine Buckley,  supported HLT’s goals of ecological conservation for the protection of water quality and recognized the project’s strong alignment with the County’s Green Infrastructure plan. With the support of County Executive Barry Glassman, HLT and the County subsequently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding outlining a pledge to cover the remainder of HLT’s Perryman Forest funding needs.

The Harford Land Trust’s first project was the Forest Green’s Lake Preserve in Perryman in 1992, now a county park. The preservation of the Perryman Forest effectively  expands the Preserve by 32 acres to the north. The tidal and non-tidal wetlands on the site are hydrologically connected through surface and subsurface flow to the Bush River and subsequently to the Chesapeake Bay, benefiting water quality by retaining nutrients and sediment. The property is characterized by upland forest and wetlands, also known as “tree swamps,” and vernal pools, also known as “flatwoods.” This type of ecosystem is only found in the Coastal Plain portion of the County, and is of limited occurrence.

We expect to close on this property within the next six months.