Deer Creek, a 40-mile stream that meanders from the sloping hills of Baltimore County to the Susquehanna River, used to be in the middle of Indian country. In fact, an old Indian village once stood near the Rocks, a massive pile of boulders nine miles northeast of Bel Air, which is one of Harford County's most interesting formations of nature. A legend has it that one stone formation is an ancient Indian burial marker.
Deer Creek "is a history of rural America," contends Christopher Weeks, the county's historical preservation planner. Early colonial settlers built their homesteads and mills on its banks. "One can see, based on the buildings that are still standing, 250 years of agricultural development," he said.
A group of residents, aided by county planners, has now prepared a massive proposal to put 15,000-acres of the Deer Creek Valley onto the National Register of Historic Places. That would protect the region from highways and dams and other developments that receive federal funding.
Much of Deer Creek's history has already been lost. While several old residential and industrial buildings still stand on its banks, all the quaint, covered wooden bridges that once crossed the stream are gone. Yet it is not too late to protect the valley's rustic scenery from major projects that might spoil it.
The Deer Creek Valley preservation proposal is a commendable one. This irreplaceable natural resource should be protected. It reminds Harford countians that they are only the latest sojourners along the banks of a stream that reverberates the echoes of a distant past.