Community hopes to develop War of 1812 trail in Dundalk

Some of Dundalk's War of 1812 sites — including Battle Acre Park and North Point State Battlefield — share North Point Road with rowhouses and strip malls.

But nearby, quiet Charlesmont and Bear Creek parks offer undeveloped land also tied to the Battle of North Point, where British and American troops clashed as the British moved toward Baltimore.

"It looks exactly like it did 200 years ago," said Robert Reyes, a local historian, as he gazed out over the water from the head of Bear Creek.

Reyes and others in the community are trying to build support to create a 2-mile foot trail to connect Battle Acre and the North Point State Battlefield with the Bear Creek area. They hope it would encourage awareness of the area's importance to the War of 1812.

"We had this big celebration for the [War of] 1812," said Jane Browneller of the Gray Manor and Northshire Community Association, referring to June's Star-Spangled Sailabration in Baltimore. "It was all down at the Inner Harbor, and it was beautiful. Yet the battle was here."

Reyes' plans are in their infancy, but the National Park Service has helped develop a concept map for the trail, and he has identified possible federal funds for the project. Reyes serves on the state and Baltimore County War of 1812 bicentennial commissions.

Battle Acre is a county park dedicated in 1839 to commemorate the more than 3,000 Americans who faced the British, who outnumbered them, in the Battle of North Point. British Gen. Robert Ross was killed, which was a major blow to their forces. Across the street, North Point Battlefield is a 9-acre property that Maryland bought from Mars Super Markets in 2006 under then-Gov.Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Linking the sites on North Point Road to the parks could offer people a view they haven't seen before, said historian Ralph Eshelman, co-author of "In Full Glory Reflected: Discovering the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake."

"It does afford you more of a rural kind of viewshed, and it offers you an opportunity to view the battlefield from the waterside," Eshelman said. "The creeks and the water in that area played a significant role in determining where the battle took place, and also where the different units from both sides could attack one another."

For much of the 19th century, Defenders' Day was celebrated in the Bear Creek area, said Christopher George, historian and author of the book "Terror on the Chesapeake: The War of 1812 on the Bay."

"It was a huge celebration and patriotic display by all these people to recognize what had happened back in 1814," George said.

And the Bear Creek area was the childhood home of Commodore Joshua Barney, a hero in the War of 1812 as well as the Revolutionary War.

The trail would pass several schools, offering an interactive educational opportunity for students, Reyes said.

The community also has been trying to develop the North Point Heritage Greenway Trail, which would connect sites between Fort Howard and Dundalk, including North Point State Park and Todd's Inheritance, a farmstead where Americans kept watch for the British in the Battle of North Point.

The project has not received funding, but community members are seeking resources, said Fran Taylor, chairman of the county's bicentennial committee.

Both paths could be incorporated into the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, a land-and-water path linking sites in Maryland, Virginia and Washington that led to the birth of the national anthem. The national trail project officially launched last week in Fells Point.

For years, community activists have tried to improve the historic sites in Dundalk. On a recent afternoon at Battle Acre, the flagpole was bare and the entrance gate's pillars were tilting over.

"It's very well known that the sites are in disrepair," Taylor said.

Earlier this year, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz requested $400,000 from state lawmakers to help fix Battle Acre, but the county did not receive the money.

"We are continuing to work on identifying potential state funding and also looking at possible grant opportunities," county spokeswoman Ellen Kobler said.

County CouncilmanJohn Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat, said he periodically receives complaints about Battle Acre and hopes that federal funds will be available because of the bicentennial celebration.

The National Park Service has consulted with community members on ideas for both the trails.

"It's an area that's often overlooked," said Suzanne Copping, project manager with the park service for the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. "What happened on North Point, it was setting the stage for what happened later … at Fort McHenry."



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