Harford Land Trust permanently protects more than 100 acres in Edgewood

The Aegis

The Maryland Environmental Trust has partnered with the Harford Land Trust to permanently protect the 104-acre woodland tract known as Otter Creek Preserve in Edgewood.

The land trust also is looking to expand its first project — Forest Greens Preserve in Perryman.

At Otter Point Preserve, the land trust gifted the conservation easement to ensure the area’s rich ecological resources and scenic land along Willoughby Beach Road were safeguarded for the benefit of future generations.

“We’re pleased to partner with the Harford Land Trust to support their efforts to ensure that Harford County’s most important natural and working lands remain an important part of the fabric of the community,” Maryland Environmental Trust Director Bill Leahy said. “Local land trusts are critical to our ability to accomplish our conservation mission of long-term stewardship of Maryland’s natural resources.”

The property, known as Otter Creek Preserve, comprises deciduous woodlands and associated vernal pools in a natural community known as flatwoods — the largest known intact woodland of its kind in Harford County, according to a news release.

The vernal pools provide breeding and feeding habitat for a number of amphibians, invertebrates and reptiles. The woodland is habitat for many bird species, including the Acadian flycatcher, hairy woodpecker, Kentucky warbler, ovenbird, red-eyed vireo and scarlet tanager.

“We are grateful to have been given this unique property so many years ago, and we are incredibly pleased to donate this conservation easement that will ensure the property remains protected forever,” Harford Land Trust Executive Director Kristin Kirkwood said in a statement. “We value our strong partnership with the Maryland Environmental Trust and look forward to continued collaboration.”

The Otter Creek Preserve property was donated to Harford Land Trust about 20 years ago by a developer of an adjacent neighborhood to preserve the unique habitat and scenic character of the woodlands.

Forest Greens Preserve

The Harford Land Trust’s first project was the Forest Green’s Lake Preserve in Perryman in 1992. Now a county park, the preserve remains a point of pride for the Forest Greens-Perryman Community Association (FGPCA), with which we worked closely on this project.

After 25 years, we are back in Perryman looking to expand the park with the purchase of an additional 32 acres to the north. The property has been on our priority list for over a decade.Riverwalk II, as the property is known, is a proposed subdivision of 21 single-family lots with access from Mitchell Drive in Perryman.

For years, the developers have placed a value of $5,800,000 on the property with final subdivision approval. Faced with challenges to complete subdivision approval, and after years of negotiations, they have agreed on a sales price to the Trust of $935,000. Should HLT and our partners be unable to secure funding to purchase the property, development will begin in 2018.

Through our partnership with the Army Compatible Use Buffer Program, we have secured $850,000 toward the purchase price, plus funds for due diligence and settlement, leaving a balance of $85,000. We are looking to the Forest Greens-Perryman community, the wider Harford community, regional corporations, local businesses, and grants to raise the $85,000. The need to finance this acquisition comes at a time when the Trust has multiple properties going to contract, with associated costs. Click here to donate to the cause; no amount is too small.

The tidal and non-tidal wetlands on the site are hydrologically connected through surface and subsurface flow to the Bush River and subsequently to the Chesapeake Bay, benefiting water quality by retaining nutrients and sediment. The property is characterized by upland forest and wetlands, also known as “tree swamps,” and vernal pools, also known as “flatwoods.” This type of ecosystem is only found in the Coastal Plain portion of the County, and is of limited occurrence.

The retention of the site in its natural state will prevent local flooding, protect wildlife habitat, and provide a buffer zone between communities. The site provides a connector link for the proposed community nature trail and would allow for passive recreation if left undeveloped or development was limited.

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