In 2006, the HLT protected the 20 acre Raven Rock property on Deer Creek.
Deer Creek Sanctuary Protected by Trust Acquisition
On July 24 2006, President Harry Webster and the owner of Raven Rock, Graham Silsby, signed a Purchase Agreement for the Trust’s acquisition of a 20-acre wooded parcel lying directly on Deer Creek in Street. We were very pleased to announce at our 2007 Celebration of Success event that this property went to settlement in October. The land is named after a large vertical rock outcropping overlooking Deer Creek passing through the property 220 feet below. “We got excited about this beautiful and varied property the minute we laid eyes on it”, said Peg Niland who, with board members Stephanie Stone and Glenn Dudderar where given a tour by Mr. Silsby one cold day last winter. As if on cue, a Kingfisher flew overhead while we walked along the creek.
The tract consists of two adjacent parcels on the north side of Deer Creek near Sandy Hook between MD Route 543 and US 1. The site both overlooks and includes a portion of Deer Creek itself on its eastern bank. The sandy banks give away the secrets of the resident wildlife with prints of wild turkey, deer, raccoon, and beaver. To the south, the land adjoins the Harford County Park’s wooded 157-acre Deer Creek Conservation Area off of Sandy Hook Road, while downstream to the south is the Palmer State Park.
The land drops precipitously from its highest elevation on top of a massive rock outcrop to the narrow verge of Deer Creek below. “The view from this perch is spectacular,” said Harry Webster while touring the property in December 2006. “This gem will forever be preserved for its natural resources, as a buffer to the adjacent park, and as a place for passive recreation for the public.”
The slope to Deer Creek from the west is less precipitous, and some bottomland adjoins the creek where the property boundary follows the creek bank a short distance before crossing to the far shore and binding along that bank to the southeasterly corner. Hard rock constrains Deer Creek into a hairpin bend along this portion of its reach. The creek here is narrow, about 100 feet across, and is a series of long pools with a considerable amount of sand and gravel. Wildlife abounds and the stream is clean and clear. This is a perfect spot along the creek for swimming, rafting, and is ideal for a canoeing rest area.
Mr. Silsby had owned this property since 1971 and sought out the Harford Land Trust when he decided to sell it so that it would remain in its natural state forever. He generously offered the property to the Trust as a “bargain sale.” Each of the two parcels has the potential for one house. A well, septic, and utilities are in place already on one lot. The fair market value of the property was far greater than the price he set for the HLT’s acquisition. A bargain sale not only made it more affordable for the Trust, but offers several benefits to landowners: it provides cash, avoids some capital gains tax, and entitles the landowner to a charitable income tax deduction based on the difference between the land's fair market value and its sale price.
Harry Webster, HLT President eloquently summarized this acquisition when he said: “This was a beautiful project in so many ways. The land itself has stark contrasts from sandy banks of the clear-flowing Deer Creek to rocky outcroppings over 200 feet high. This small seemingly insignificant property gives a person considerable emotions as they walk through the woods. Its previous owner is conservation minded person who sold the property to us at below market value so that the land trust could take quick action to purchase and put the land in preservation. Now the property is HLT’s responsibility we are excited to offer the land to the public for hiking and recreation as it continues to serve as a natural home to the local wildlife.”
To secure the property, the Trust later applied successfully to the Maryland Rural Legacy Program for a conservation easement on the property to protect it from development in perpetuity. MRLP also reimbursed the Trust for a significant portion of the purchase cost, money which was put back into the land preservation fund and used for future projects. As good stewards, the Trust has also marked the boundaries, removed the existing manufactured home, secured the well, installed proper signage, and addressed all known hiking safety issues. We are excited to offer the land to the public for hiking and other forms of passive recreation as it continues to serve as a natural home to the local wildlife.