Hundreds turn out for Eden Mill's annual Fall Fest

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Jacob Reinert, of Jarrettsville, his 9-year-old daughter, Sophia, and his girlfriend, Heather Gibson, made their first visit to Eden Mill Nature Center in Pylesville over the weekend, during the nature center’s annual Fall Fest.

“This would be a great place to come back in the spring,” Gibson, a resident of Nottingham in Baltimore County, said.

Reinert said Saturday was “a nice fall day to get out.”

Sophia, who learned about Fall Fest through school as well as notices posted online, took in a number of children’s activities. She, along with other children, took her Passport to the Park Adventure pamphlet around to different stations around the park to learn about animals, plants, even see corn grinding in action.

Sophia said she liked seeing the historic grist mill and the machinery used to grind grains. The mill was built by the Stansbury family in 1798 and was in operation until 1964, according to the Eden Mill website.

The 117-acre park, which is along Deer Creek in northern Harford County, is owned by Harford County — the county acquired the mill and 57 surrounding acres in 1965 and 60 more acres in 2008, according to its website.

The nonprofit Eden Mill Nature Committee Inc., founded in 1991, operates the park with support from volunteers.

“It's definitely an effort of a lot of people,” board chair Paula Harris said Saturday. “We couldn't do without the volunteers.”

About 10,000 people visit each year, according to Frank Marsden, Eden Mill’s naturalist, program director and board member.

About 950 people attended Fall Fest, Marsden said.

“It’s our way of saying, ‘thank you’ to the 10,000 people who come here every year for our programs, for our canoe trips and just to visit the mill and the nature center,” he said.

Marsden stressed the majority of Saturday’s activities were free to visitors. People could go through the park with the Passport scavenger hunt and win a prize, play in a leaf pile, interact with farm animals at a small petting zoo, check out rescued wild animals at the Phoenix Wildlife Center tent, even watch pumpkins being launched using a trebuchet built by Eden Mill volunteers.

Representatives of the Harford Land Trust and the Natural History Society of Maryland also manned stations to interact with the public.

Visitors paid $5 per pumpkin to have them launched and explode in the fields near Eden Mill’s garden area, according to Marsden. There were 125 pumpkins launched, according to Harris.

“They get to actually shoot that pumpkin away, and it’s kind of exciting,” Marsden said. “We see, I guess, our primitive side come out as we watch things explode in the fields.”

Jadon Bowles, of Fawn Grove, Pa, snapped a photo of his 22-month-old daughter, Siena, as she played in the leaf pile. His older daughter, Bianka, age 5, could be seen nearby running and jumping in the pile with other children.

Bowles visited Fall Fest with his wife and all four of their children.

“This is really cool that they put this on today,” he said. “We’re trying to find something that's geared a little bit alternate to Halloween.”

Bowles said his family does not celebrate Halloween, which fell last week, for religious reasons.

“It's more of an entertainment holiday than actually celebrating something worthwhile,” he said. “We try to take each day to recognize God.”

Bowles and his family are frequent visitors to Eden Mill, since it is close to their home. They enjoy swimming in Deer Creek and walking on the nature trails, he said.

“Everyone enjoyed it,” he said of Fall Fest. “Everyone had a really good time.”

Mary Hagan, of Street, talked with Erin Schapiro, a Phoenix Wildlife Center volunteer, as Schapiro held a 4-year-old Eastern screech owl.

Hagan visited Fall Fest with her daughter and grandchildren, and her friend, Robin Chisholm, of Pylesville.

“It was a very nice affair, really nice,” Chisholm said.

The nonprofit Phoenix Wildlife Center, which is in Phoenix in eastern Baltimore County, takes in birds, mammals and reptiles that are native to Maryland, nurses them back to health and then returns them to the wild, according to Phoenix’s website. The organization also educates the public about issues related to wildlife.

Phoenix volunteers and select animals have been visiting Fall Fest at Eden Mill for the past 10 years, according to director Kathleen Woods.

“It's really interesting to read off all the facts [about wildlife] to the kids and get to see their reaction,” Schapiro said.

She said some children already know things about wildlife, and “they can come up and start reading off the facts to you,” which she enjoys.

Schapiro said she also enjoys talking with children who do not have prior knowledge.

“They just take in everything you tell them,” she said.

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