ELDERSBURG -- The line of trees stretched as far as the eye could see.
Hidden between branches and brush was a man-made nuisance that a half-dozen Westminster High School students had come to remove from the Morgan Run Natural Environment Area, despite a constant drizzle Saturday.
"Deer get caught in the (barb-wired) fences and hurt themselves," said 16-year-old Missy Webb. "I want to help the deer."
But it was more than deer that brought Missy and her classmates, all members of the school's Camping and Conservation Club, to the almost-pristine area north of here. They share an adulation of the outdoors and a concern about the environment.
FOR THE RECORD - A student in a photo that ran in Wednesday's Youth section should have been identified as Aaron Brondyke, 18, of Finksburg, a WestminsterHigh School senior.
"We want to help make it a morepristine area than it is now," said Aaron Brondyke, an 18-year-old senior. "There are a lot of dilapidated buildings, fences and other junk around here."
The teen-agers were among a small group of area residents who showed up to help reopen the park, situated just east ofRoute 97. Besides removing barbed wire fences, volunteers were expected to pick up litter, remove debris, clean streams, plant trees, install signs and tear down old buildings, including the Old Honbarrier house.
"It won't all be done today," said Susan Ballas, an Eldersburg resident who coordinated the event. "We'll be out here the next couple of Saturdays to get the job done. It's a beautiful area and we want people to be able to enjoy it."
She said deer are a particular concern because they often get caught in barbed-wire fences, which line much of the property. She said it was not uncommon to find a deer carcass hanging from the fence and mutilated by buzzards.
That image aside, Ballas said, "It's really beautiful here. You see lots ofdeer."
Seventeen-year-old Tom Barnhart didn't appear to have his mind on deer or the beauty of the landscape. With wire-cutters in hand, the junior was busy looking for an opening in the brush so he could reach the fence.
Tom, not a member of the Camping and Conservation Club, said he came along "just to help."
"I just like the outdoors," he said.
That sentiment prompted Aaron and fellow senior Michael Sterner to form the club last spring, at about the time Earth Day activities were sweeping the nation. Today, the club has more than 100 members, but Michael estimated about 35 are active.
Club members participated in international Earth Day activities in Washington last spring. Cathi Myers, a Westminster High School guidance counselorand the club's adviser, said the event had special meaning for the students.
"I think it made them feel a part of history," said Myers, also an outdoors enthusiast. "It gave them a real sense that the environment was a global issue -- an issue that was bigger than Westminster or South Carroll high schools."
The schools are part of Gov. William Donald Schaefer's statewide recycling program. Bins are placed at the school one week a month to collect aluminum cans and bottles. The Westminster club also sponsors an office paper recycling program.
Various activities to celebrate Earth Day are planned this weekat Westminster High. They range from guest speakers on the environment to wildlife videos.
The club is hoping attention on Earth Day will spur interest in recycling and other environmental issues.
"I think the environment has caused a lot of people to join," Missy said. "I'm sometimes afraid though that this is just part of a trend. I'mafraid the environment is going to go out of style and people won't care."
It's clear, though, that these students care.
Their visit to the Morgan Run Natural Environmental Area wasn't the first effort to help clean up the outdoors. Last spring, the group helped removetrash and debris from the Monocacy River on the Carroll-Frederick line.
"It was an all-day project," recalled Michael. "We took out tires and cans full of trash. It was dirty in a lot of areas -- some ofit was from farm runoff.
"We had a small turnout, but it really made us see the potential of the river. The river was not totally gone."
The mix of environmentalism and outdoor activities appeals to many members. That was one reason John Robbins joined the club.
"I've met a lot of really nice people," the 16-year-old junior said, "people I didn't know I had common interests with. I went through this anti-social stint for a while, but now I have some new friends."
Earlier this year, the group hiked the Appalachian Trail from Washington Monument State Park to Harper's Ferry, W. Va., about a 17-mile trek. They've also been to Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Pennsylvania.
"We're real fond of the Appalachian Trail," said Myers. "It's accessible to us and there are shelters all along the way."
Unlike environmental clubs at other schools, Westminster's Camping and Conservation Club has been able to make overnight trips because it is affiliated with Boy Scout Explorer Troop 390. That affiliation resolves anyquestions of liability. The Carroll school system does not allow school-sponsored clubs to make overnight trips.
"It gives us access to trips we couldn't do through high school," Michael said.
Like the others, John said he likes the outdoor activities. But the activities also have increased his interest in the environment.
"I think my concerns are stronger since I've been in the club," he said.
Cutting barbed wire, the students learned, was messy business. It wasn'tso much the wire, but the brush and branches in their path. After cutting portions of the fence, the students either flattened the wire or rolled it up.
"I think it's going well," said Myers. "The rain scared some of my students away. It's really difficult to get into some of these places to cut the wire."
Brett Scobie, a junior and a member since the club formed, said he had visited the environmental area before but had never trekked as far back as the club had ventured.
"I think it's important to get involved," Brett said. "I'm here because of the club, but I do have concerns about the environment."