Location's a lure in Clarksville

During the late 1800s, Clarksville served as a small rural town with a post office, blacksmiths and various stores catering to the surrounding farming community.

Today, Clarksville is defined by the intersection of routes 108 and 32, with the community itself acting as a crossroads where Howard County's busy suburban side meets its more rural and open landscape.

It still serves as a local commercial hub for the outlying area, but it has managed to balance open space and rolling hills as it continues to grow.

"As you cross over the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area and travel up Route 108, it starts to have a more rural feel to it. We're sort of on the edge here," said Susan Smith, village manager for the River Hill Community Association. "It's a community that's still growing. ... There's a lot more here than, say, 10 years ago."

Clarksville is home in part to the more than 2,000 residences that make up the Village of River Hill, the last of Columbia's 10 planned villages. Surrounded by open space, but with the conveniences of Columbia within reach, it's easy to see why the area is such a draw. There's still a small-town feel, evoked at its annual July Fourth parade in the Village of River Hill that draws people from all over. Its high-achieving, much-touted schools remain another strong attraction.

With Howard County regularly being ranked as one of the richest counties in the country, Clarksville boasts the highest average income within the county, making it home to some of the wealthiest residents in the state.

Just about any type of housing is found in Clarksville, which is one of the attractions for homeowners, said Allie Mitchell, a Realtor for Long & Foster in Columbia.

Another draw is its proximity to Interstates 70 and 95.

"The most important thing with Clarksville is location, location, location," said Mitchell. "It's very pleasant living, yet you can get to Mount Vernon ... or the Inner Harbor in 20 minutes. Your location is just so great."

The easy access from Clarksville allows residents the flexibility to work in Baltimore, Annapolis or Washington, with all three cities being a reasonable commute.

The housing ranges from older single-family ranchers and split-levels on large lots to newer condos, townhouses and single-family houses that are part of the Village of River Hill. The older homes start in the $500,000 range, with the newer condos starting in the mid-$400,000 range.

Several developments have sprung up over the last several years, most offering expensive, estate-style homes, fetching a starting price of $1 million.

A few informal rental options are available in Clarksville, according to Mitchell, with single-family homes renting for about $3,000 a month and townhouses and condos renting for just over $2,000 a month.

The much-sought-after schools that serve Clarksville continue to score well above state proficiency levels when it comes to the Maryland State Assessments. Clarksville and Pointers Run elementary schools, Clarksville Middle and River Hill High are the schools that most students in the area attend. All but Pointers Run have been named National Blue Ribbon schools.

St. Louis Church offers a private Catholic school, serving kindergarten through eighth grade here.

"Statistically, crime is relatively low in the Clarksville area," says Sherry Llewellyn, a Howard County police spokeswoman, with few violent crimes being reported. "We sometimes see nuisance crimes or quality of life crimes that may crop up from time to time."

Many stores and specialty retailers are located within Clarksville, including the popular River Hill Garden Center, but those looking for a mall setting need to travel only a short distance to the Mall in Columbia.

Roots Market, a natural food store specializing in organic and gourmet items, is in Clarksville Square. Giant Food is in the River Hill Village Shopping Center.

There's plenty to choose from in Clarksville, with most of the options being casual fare in the form of pizza, sub shops, bagels, sushi and chicken. Just outside Clarksville on Route 108, but close enough to count as a local establishment, is the Iron Bridge Wine Company, a wine bar and coffee shop.

Most residents will venture out of the neighborhood to bars and restaurants along Ellicott City's main street. or to the many eateries available in Columbia. During the summer months, the Village of River Hill hosts an outdoor concert series.

You can't talk about Clarksville without mentioning nearby great recreational opportunities. The Middle Patuxent Environmental Area offers miles of hiking trails and open space. There's an outdoor pool at the Village of River Hill, as well as plenty of walking paths and playgrounds. Just down the road is Centennial Park with hiking trails, picnic areas, playing fields and a 54-acre lake.

River Hill Community Association, riverhill.columbiavillages.org

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