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.