Fairy tale maze

The Baltimore Sun

Not all of the real estate from nursery rhymes and fairy tales is created equal.

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater's bright-orange abode, where he keeps his Marie Antoinette look-alike wife, is so light that one person easily rolled it into place on a recent workday at Clark's Elioak Farm in Ellicott City.

Even the Gingerbread House that Hansel and Gretel long ago discovered on a trek through the forest slid easily off a flatbed truck, with just a few pairs of hands and a two-by-four guiding it to its cozy resting spot amid the white pines.

But the Rock-A-Bye-Baby Tree - a 19-foot-high behemoth on whose bough the cradle will forever await its calamitous fate - is being repaired on location at the farm after being moved there in three sections in late 2007. Unlike its fiberglass or wood-frame counterparts, the weighty trunk is constructed of cement.

As the 22-acre farm prepares for its annual April 1 opening, the last of the beloved remnants of the Enchanted Forest storybook theme park are being readied and coaxed into place on the Clark property at the northwest corner of Centennial Lane and Route 108.

"It's just been the most incredible project," said Martha Clark, farm owner and daughter of the late James Clark, a longtime state senator who placed the 420-acre parcel in agricultural preservation in the 1980s. An additional 120 acres, also in preservation, is owned by her brother, Jamie Clark.

But there's a new twist to the evolving display of nostalgia at the Clark property, which opened its petting farm in 2002 and averages 80,000 visitors annually.

The recent additions are taking up residence in the new Enchanted Forest Farm Maze, a 14-station feature that Clark dreamed up when surveying what was to be a cut-your-own Christmas tree area.

Deer had nibbled some of the evergreen specimens to death, others had been nicked by mower blades and still others had grown too tall for holiday use, Clark said. As she walked through the pines one day, Clark realized there was a natural, serpentine path that could be followed through the 1 1/4 -acre plot with enough space to park some of the last amusement park pieces at its bends and turns.

"It just dawned on me that we could create this for visitors," Clark said. "There will be an activity booklet with questions you can only answer if you go through the maze."

When the petting farm opens Wednesday, there will be more than 30 figures and structures from the Enchanted Forest scattered across its fields.

Clark continues to receive plenty of help with spring preparations to reopen the farm, which has been closed to the public since Nov 1. Mark Cline, a fiberglass artist who has been involved in the restoration effort from the start, has repaired many pieces and painstakingly re-created others.

The pumpkin shell had deteriorated beyond rescue, so Cline made a new one. He also stepped in to give lonely Jack a new Jill and to make a dish to accompany the grieving spoon.

George W. Miller Jr., a Catonsville contractor, is finishing the cement tree and has choreographed the installation of most of the theme park's pieces. And Marty Levine, of Ex-Cel Tree Experts in Jessup, has supplied his crane free of charge on moving days.

The repaired and new pieces join Cinderella's coach, the Crooked House, Willie the Whale and the rest of the gang, all of which were moved in waves from their former home on U.S. 40 since 2004. That's when Enchanted Forest Shopping Center owner Kimco Realty Corp. decided to divest itself of the deteriorating pieces.

The original dragon-draped castle entrance, which is still in place at the shopping center, has been duplicated at the farm.

Meanwhile, the shopping center plans to unveil its refurbished entrance on May 2. The dragon, which was damaged beyond repair by a fire, has been re-created by Cline and the entire structure restabilized and repainted, said Curt Boteler, shopping center property manager.

Old King Cole, who still stands guard there, had his jolly old soul tested last summer when lightning struck and burned his backside, Boteler said. The king has also been repaired by Cline.

"We didn't want to see it crumble away," Boteler said, adding that merchants will sponsor a family-oriented event at the center in conjunction with the unveiling.

The park was in operation from 1955 to 1988 - when the 31-acre, 28-store shopping center was built - and had one last hurrah in 1994 before closing forever.

The effort to reclaim the pieces of the defunct park have continued for more than four years. Kimco gave the pieces to Clark, though she said she has spent nearly $200,000 moving and refurbishing them.

Linda Harrison Gardner, a member of the Harrison family that owned and operated the amusement park, commended Clark for undertaking the effort.

"Martha never gives herself any credit," Gardner said. "Without her offering her land, none of this would have been possible."

While there are no more pieces to rescue from the Enchanted Forest property, Clark said she will continue to enhance what she has. "I don't like to say, 'That's it,' " she said. "There's always something we can do."


Is there a noteworthy person or event in your neighborhood? Contact Neighbors columnist Janene Holzberg at jholzberg76@msn.com or 410-461-4150.

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