The limestone deposits that snake through Carroll County's Wakefield Valley complex represent an important part of human history, as well as a geological legacy.
Settlers quarried and processed the alkaline mineral to tame the acid soils in order to wrest a bountiful harvest from the tilled land. The limestone formations in the valley, which are among Maryland's finest, are still being mined from quarries today.
Tucked into the hillsides in the Fenby Farm Road area of Westminster is an abandoned lime kiln and quarry, where the 19th century owner blasted and dug out the limestone, baked it at high temperatures with charcoal, and then watered it for application on the land. The local quarries were important to Carroll farmers until the trains began to bring in cheaper lime from large mills far away.
Plans are under way to restore and preserve that kiln and quarry as a living history exhibit in a new Westminster park that would stretch from Windsor Drive to Old New Windsor Pike. It would be an important part in the interpretive history of the area.
A rebuilt limestone kiln could also be operated on occasions, just other old-time agricultural crafts are demonstrated at the Carroll County Farm Museum.
It's a grand idea for the linear park that will also include hiking and biking trails. Fortunately, the limestone history project has the backing of the public, the county and some professional geologists, such as Genstar's Page Herbert. And local quarrying companies, still mining the valley's mineral deposits, have indicated they would contribute toward the interpretive area. A stonemason or bricklayer must restore the kiln, part of which caved in long ago.
The rest of the history project could be developed without major problems. Land from the Fenby Farms development would be donated to the city, linking with parcels owned by Westminster to create a 70-acre park. The county has allotted $10,000 for planning and design of the park.
The existing limestone formation was thrust up from the lower strata of the earth about 575 million years ago, protected by a layer of harder phyllite rock. When humans began quarrying the minerals in the late 17th century, they benefited from that happy occurrence of geological history.