'Just a warm and cozy little place'

The Baltimore Sun

Amid the vast fields and hiking trails and the miles of shoreline along the Patuxent River at the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary in Lothian sits a modest two-story home that was in dire need of repair a few years ago.

Named the Plummer House for a family that once tilled the section of the sanctuary now called the Parris N. Glendening Nature Preserve, its shingles were falling off and the stairs were rotting.

Now the Plummer House has been renovated through nearly $200,000 in federal and county grants and thousands of hours of volunteer work. The house will serve as an information center for visitors, a staging ground for education programs and a field station for researchers visiting the 1,400 acres of tidal fresh wetlands, forests, meadows and fields. A dedication and ribbon-cutting were scheduled for yesterday.

"This will be a place where researchers can come and meet," said Christopher Swarth, sanctuary superintendent. "Everything from looking at water quality to birds and frogs and turtles. People can also come and learn about the park and trails and wildlife. This is all part of the effort by the state and the county to try to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay."

The Anne Arundel Department of Recreation and Parks chipped in grants totaling about $100,000 for the renovation, which began in 2006. Through the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Maryland, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration supplied an $85,000 grant for the project.

"It's very important to protect these wetlands, not just for the sake of habitat, but for the sake of clean water," said Elizabeth L. Ebersole, manager of the Estuarine Research Reserve.

A key figure in the restoration of the debilitated house, according to Swarth and John Marshall, chief of operations for the Department of Recreation and Parks, was a volunteer who logged more than 1,000 hours: Harry L. Taylor II, known as "Mickey," a 74-year-old retired general contractor from Churchton.

"As you can imagine, as things deteriorate you've got to fix them -- trails and fences and lights and buildings need to be repaired; new roofs. These sort of projects go on every year," Marshall said. If Taylor had not stepped up, the project would have had to be scaled back, Marshall added.

Taylor supervised other volunteers and subcontractors and laid brick and installed trusses and plywood at the home, which was last inhabited in the early 1900s. Officials could not say when the house was first built. The 24-foot by 24-foot home, with its broad front porch, received a new roof, siding, floors and stairs in the renovation.

"I walked into this place and I just feel the spirits of those who had lived there in the past," Taylor said. "It's just a warm and cozy little place. But it was just a mess. I looked at them and said it's structurally sound, but it needs a major renovation."

The state purchased the 610 acres of land that is now the Glendening Nature Preserve, where the Plummer House is located, in 2001 as part of the governor's GreenPrint Program, which was designed to protect lands critical to the state's long-term ecological health. The Department of Natural Resources and the county entered into an agreement in 2006 to add the nature preserve to the wetlands sanctuary.

About 300 volunteers work on sanctuary education and research projects there annually. Twelve master's theses and six doctoral dissertations have been completed there.


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