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News Maryland Carroll County

Liberty Reservoir Day puts spotlight on shimmering asset

It was 60 years ago this summer that Baltimore City began plans to fill what we now know as Liberty Reservoir. The 9,200 acres of the Liberty Reservoir tract are owned by Baltimore City and on July 27, Baltimore's Department of Public Works will hold the first Liberty Reservoir Day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Liberty Dam off Liberty Dam Road.

The observation deck on the dam will be open to the public during the event.

The city agency is responsible for a 215-square-mile watershed area fed by a 466-square-mile drainage area that includes three reservoirs — Prettyboy, Loch Raven and Liberty, Jim Slater said during a presentation on the hydrogeological complexities and history of Liberty Reservoir at the Nov. 17, 2011, meeting of the Finksburg Planning and Community Council at the Finksburg Library.

Slater, the water resources program manager for the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and a former director of environmental services for Carroll County, is considered one of the two foremost authorities on the Liberty Reservoir. The other is local historian Diana Mills Scott.

According to Scott, filling the reservoir with water actually began in October 1953. Construction of the dam across the north branch of the Patapsco River had begun on Aug. 20, 1951, and was completed in September 1953.

Scott wrote her master's degree thesis at McDaniel College on the history of the village of Oakland, which was once located where the reservoir now exists, on the Carroll County side of the border with Baltimore County.

She gave a presentation on the history of Oakland and the Liberty Reservoir for the Historical Society of Carroll County's box lunch series in 2004. Scott subsequently published a 157-page book, "The Forgotten Corner, a History of Oakland Mill," which was released Oct. 22, 2005. For anyone interested in an authoritative and comprehensive historical study of this area of Carroll, her book is a must-have.

According to a Nov. 29, 2011, Baltimore Sun article written by Carroll resident Bob Allen, Slater said the reservoir's history really began back around 1804, "when Baltimore launched efforts to develop a central water system. In 1807, Jones Falls Waterworks was constructed, and in 1810 officials began buying springs and fountains within the city limits. In 1875, the first dam was built across Gunpowder Falls, and in 1912 work began on Loch Raven Reservoir."

After decades of discussions and complex negotiations, on April 10, 1931, Gov. Albert Ritchie, Maryland's longest serving governor (1920-1935), signed into law the Legislative Act of the Patapsco River Basin, which allowed Baltimore City to eventually build Liberty Reservoir.

Among the Carroll organizations that will participate in Saturday's event are: Gamber & Community Fire Company; Sykesville Freedom District Fire Department; Carroll County Sheriff's Office; and the Carroll County Department of Land Use, Planning and Development.

The event and parking are free. For information, call 410-545-6541.

When not immersed in Scott's history book, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com or @kevindayhoff on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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