Trees saved, house meets its demise Nature area to be built on Sykesville site

The walls of a 130-year-old house came tumbling down Thursday, but the trees surrounding it may be standing well into the next millennium.

Orange limit-of-disturbance fencing wraps around 10 acres of mature, healthy trees. The snow fence with barbed wire protects walnut and maple trees and towering pines -- many as high as 100 feet -- from the construction equipment at Sykesville Park.


"We gave extreme consideration to saving all the trees around the house," said Dean Leister, the project coordinator.

Carroll County's Department of Recreation and Parks and the state Department of Natural Resources tried to save the old farmhouse, too, before excavation began at the new 90-acre park on Raincliffe Road.


"It was just too deteriorated; animals and vandals had damaged the inside," Mr. Leister said.

Raymond Wetzel, of the county Bureau of Building and Construction, said that as a carpenter he has learned to appreciate old houses, but this one was "just not practical to fix."

After the decision was made to raze it, the house ordinarily would have been burned. Instead, excavators used a bulldozer and dismantled the building piece by piece to limit damage to the trees.

The debris went into an 18-foot-deep pit on the site where it wasburned "quickly with no smolder or smoke," said Mr. Leister.

No debris will be buried on the site, he said.

A few maple trees that had grown into the house's foundation and an 80-foot basswood tree at the front of the house fell to chain saws.

"Whatever is around the house that we can save, we will," said Mr. Leister. "It's a new concept, but not a whole lot more trouble. Saving trees was a part of the overall bid on this project."

The basswood probably was as old as the house, and foresters "hated to see it go, but it was split and too badly damaged" to save, Mr. Wetzel said.


The wood, prized by carvers, will be cut and stored for future use. To compensate for its loss, a tall oak scheduled for removal will remain.

"It was just a question of shifting a small parking lot and we could keep the tree," said Mr. Leister. "That oak has a lot of life left and will fill out nicely."

County workers are to plant 4.4 acres of trees in reforestation areas after park construction is complete.

When the $1 million park opens, probably by the spring of 1995, a shady picnic grove and 10-acre nature area will be on the old house site.

Workers also have saved rock from the foundation of several farm structures on the property. Mr. Wetzel said he hopes the original stones can be used to form an entrance to the park.