Instead of restricting Kilgore Falls, State should open more parkland, councilman says

The popularity of the Falling Branch area of Rocks State Park, which includes Kilgore Falls, has been causing problems as visitors try to park along Clermont Mill and Falling Branch roads near the small parking area for the park.
The popularity of the Falling Branch area of Rocks State Park, which includes Kilgore Falls, has been causing problems as visitors try to park along Clermont Mill and Falling Branch roads near the small parking area for the park.(Matt Button / The Aegis)

As nearby residents struggle with problems from increasing use of Kilgore Falls in northern Harford County, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has an opportunity to add hundreds of acres of parkland to the state’s inventory, a county councilman said Tuesday.

The previous week’s Harford County Council meeting, Councilman Chad Shrodes discussed a letter he sent over the summer to DNR asking for solutions to an overcrowded Kilgore Falls at Falling Branch in Pylesville.


Part of Rocks State Park, Kilgore Falls has become overrun with people who are making it a destination swimming and picnic area, imposing on nearby residents and leaving trash scattered about, Shrodes said.

At this week’s council meeting, it was Councilman Mike Perrone’s turn to chime in. He said it’s all a matter of supply and demand, and DNR could open up at least two parks that have been closed to the public for years in an effort to relieve crowding at other area parks.

“This is not about one park in particular, but parks in general and particularly state parks,” Perrone said. “Why not open up more of Gunpowder Falls State Park,” parts of which are in Perrone’s southwestern Harford district.

The laws of supply and demand don’t apply precisely to land, because more land can’t be created, so the more that’s used the more expensive the remaining land becomes, he said.

He said there are about 300 acres on the south side of Route 40 just over the Baltimore County line between the Big and Little Gunpowder rivers. The former Genstar Quarry has been closed to the public since the state acquired it, he said.

On the Harford side of the river, DNR owns a small parcel — 50 to 75 acres — off Shore Drive in Joppatowne where access has been permanently gated “as far back as I can remember,” Perrone said.

Joppatowne residents have been pushing for years for that area to be open to the public, and early in his term Perrone contacted the state about it. The site was a onetime sand and gravel mining operation, but after acquiring the property, DNR closed it off because of environmental concerns about potentially hazardous compounds left from the prior use.

“We have a part of the county in economic decline, and right next door is 300 acres of park land that is not open to the public,” Perrone said. “It would seem to me that a small investment in a parking area and walking trails would go a long way toward raising nearby property values.”


The state has said it’s not possible to use the former quarry property because the water is so deep and it’s too dangerous, he said.

He questions if the state can restrict access to state parks.

“Public lands are there for the enjoyment of the public and just because someone has fond memories of years gone by when not only parks, but everything was less crowded, that’s no reason to try to restrict access to a park,” Perrone said.

The more people who can enjoy the parks — county, state or national — the better, he said. So why not open up more of Gunpowder?

The state already has the land, paid for with taxpayer money.

“So why is that not available for our enjoyment?” he asked.


“It’s really a shame because as public demand for parkland grows, DNR has a massive chunk of idle supply it could put into service to help satisfy that demand at very little cost,” Perrone said, “and they could help revitalize Joppatowne in the process and to an extent Edgewood and the eastern part of Baltimore County.”

DNR needs to find a “tiny slice of money in its budget” and it has a solution where everybody would win, he said.

“Thousands of people would be better off. Nobody would be worse off,” he said. “That’s all it would take.”

Shrodes agreed with Perrone and said the suggestions he had made the prior week about Kilgore Falls came from residents in the community who for the last several years have been dealing with people parking on private property and vandalizing their properties as well as the park.

“There is not enough land within the DNR inventory managed in a way you can really enjoy it,” Shrodes said in response to Perrone.

Last week, Shrodes offered possible solutions to reduce the number of people who stay all day in what has become a destination swimming hole.

Suggestions such as banning swimming, creating parking time limits and online registration are all things he has heard from the community the past three years, and he said he offered them to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in a letter last month.

Shrodes’ letter was a follow-up to some ideas he presented to DNR in January.

“We just went through another summer [at Kilgore Falls] and the complaints really, really continued with the popularity of the park,” Shrodes said. “I just really think it’s a supply and demand issue and if there were more recreational amenities, then it might not be as big of a problem there.”