Driving the half-mile of densely wooded road that separates Sherwood Forest from the rest of the world, a visitor envisions Robin Hood and his merry band dashing out and demanding gold pieces, jewelry and other valuables.
But in this secluded Anne Arundel County community, Robin Hood would find few poor to receive his booty.
With waterfront homes fetching up to $750,000 and winterized cottages running in the $300,000s, inhabitants of this Sherwood Forest live comfortably.
Founded in 1913 and incorporated as the Sherwood Forest Club Inc. two years later, the gated community on a peninsula five miles outside Annapolis features a nine-hole golf course, Olympic-sized swimming pool, tennis courts, 100-slip marina, fishing and swimming piers, two beaches, a children's summer camp, clubhouse and quaint general store.
Sherwood is a special tax district, where residents pay an assessment to cover trash pickup, snow removal, a water service utility and other services. There is an additional fee to join the recreational club.
Most residents like their privacy, and many say the community shuns publicity.
"Popularity killed paradise," says one resident.
But popular Sherwood has become, particularly with folks who grew up vacationing in the former summer resort, which was developed on the old Startzman Farm by Baltimore investor William F. Cochran. Mr. Cochran is responsible for the name, as well as streets such as Nottingham, Robin Hood, Friar Tuck and Little John.
Today, many of Sherwood's residents are professionals with jobs in Washington and Baltimore, who bought year-round houses in the community because they enjoy the recreational facilities, relish the beautiful waterfront views of the Severn River and feel that the community is secure and relatively free of crime.
Only half the Sherwoodites live here year-round, although most homes have been converted to year-round use. The community, off Generals Highway, boasts a mix of residents by age and geography -- summer residents travel from not only Washington and Baltimore but numerous East Coast states as well.
Sherwood has strict covenants that may take some getting used to. For example, almost all the houses are green -- a deep "Sherwood Forest" green to be exact -- and must stay that color. But residents say it's just part of the Sherwood way.
"No one comes to Sherwood without knowing what they're getting into," says Susan DiLonardo, a native and member of the club's Board of Directors. "You have to understand all the rules coming into it and be able to live with it."
With only 341 houses and no new construction (much of the 300 acres on the peninsula remains permanent open space), it is difficult to buy a house these days unless you have a relative living in the community.
Real estate signs aren't allowed in the hilly, wooded community. But signs aren't really needed. Turnover is low, and when houses do go up for sale, most sell by word of mouth.
William A. L. Gaudreau, a Baltimore architect, started vacationing in Sherwood when he was a child. His grandfather bought a house in 1928, and his father and four uncles later bought in the community -- three still own summer homes.
After marrying and relocating from Philadelphia, Mr. Gaudreau and his wife, Cathy, considered Baltimore neighborhoods but picked Sherwood because they love golf and tennis.
They bought a converted summer cottage 14 years ago, renovated it and sold it in one day when they were ready to move up two years ago.
Mr. Gaudreau had written the former owner of another home, saying they admired the house and lot and would buy it if he ever decided to sell. When he did, the Gaudreaus bought the place before it hit the market.
They now are completing an extensive renovation.
"A lot of people get their houses that way," says Mrs. Gaudreau, explaining that adults who grew up in Sherwood often want to move back, and their parents and friends scout out houses for them. "It's mostly a continuation of families here from generation to generation."
The Gaudreaus, who have three children, believe the summer camp lures many young families.
The eight-week, full-day camp includes swimming, sailing, a nature program, arts and crafts and other activities for $400. Children travel by foot or bicycle from one activity to the next, freeing their parents from summer car pools so they can participate in grown-up offerings such as golf and tennis tournaments.
"The kids are busy with the camp until they're 16, and then they have built-in jobs as counselors," Mrs. Gaudreau says.
"There's no other camp like it," says Mrs. DiLonardo, who has three children who have attended the camp. "For a relatively small fee, your child will be exposed to virtually every sport imaginable by the time they graduate. I remember when I worked [as a counselor], I had to teach these little kids wrestling."
The summer camp mentality permeates much of Sherwood's lifestyle and has dictated many of its rules.
Construction, for example, is forbidden during summer months because residents don't like the noise, truck traffic or jeopardizing children's safety crossing roads to camp activities. Dogs must be placed in a community kennel during the summer to avoid barking and the possibility that residents might step in -- well, you know. Cats are taboo. The community was designated a bird sanctuary years ago, and cats might wreak havoc with Sherwood's birds.
And then there's the Sherwood Forest green rule.
Houses and community buildings must remain green so they blend with the trees. A few houses that have historically been brown or white can remain those neutral colors. But should the homeowner wish to change the color, he has a choice of green or green.
Contrary to outside opinion, residents are allowed to change the appearance of their homes, add rooms and even tear the original house to the ground and replace it, which several prosperous residents have done. Particularly along the waterfront, some spectacular contemporary homes have grown out of or replaced more modest dwellings.
Still, in Sherwood Forest the size of the houses is not what impresses. Residents say what is most attractive about their community are the peaceful ambience, natural beauty and extensive recreational facilities, not the square footage of the houses.
Population: 988 (1990 Census)
Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 40 minutes
Commuting time to Washington: 55 minutes
Public schools: Rolling Knolls Elementary School; Bates Middle School; Annapolis Senior High School
Shopping: Sherwood Forest Store; Sam's Club on General's Highway; Festival at Riva, with Giant Food; Graul's Market on Taylor Avenue, off Rowe Boulevard; Parole Plaza Shopping Center, with Kmart and Woodward & Lothrop department stores
Nearest mall: Annapolis Mall, 3.5 miles southeast
Points of interest: Sherwood Forest Club House, tennis courts, swimming pool, marina, beaches and nine-hole golf course; Dwight D. Eisenhower Golf Course on Generals Highway; Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds; Maryland Renaissance Festival grounds, off Crownsville Road; Historic Annapolis, with Statehouse, Governor's Mansion, Annapolis harbor, restaurants, shops and historic homes; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis; St. John's College in Annapolis
Zip code: 21405
Average price of a single-family homes: $277,812 (8 sales)*
* Average price for houses sold through the Anne Arundel Multiple Listing Service over the past 24 months.