Rising Hopes for Falling Branch

January 06, 1993

A long faltering effort to preserve a scenic natural area in th Deer Creek watershed may prove successful in large part

because of the vision and determination of some Harford County teen-agers.

The North Harford Recreation Council's Ecology Club is selling T-shirts and candy, and soliciting funds from classmates and businesses to raise $17,500 to buy the 23 acres of Kilgore's Rocks area for the state park system.

The money will meet the shortfall between the state's Program Open Space allocation of $115,000 and the $132,500 sale price for the property, which includes a 25-foot waterfall and one of the cleanest natural streams in Maryland.

The public-private partnership represents what could well become the model for future preservation efforts, as the state's purse strings tighten while land values escalate. While this land is preserved for the benefit of all, it is most accessible to and of most value to those close enough to use it regularly. Local donations for such acquisitions are likely to become more

common.

Joining the high-schoolers in raising money to breech the gap are the newly formed Falling Branch Committee and the director of the Eden Mill Nature Center, Frank Marsden, who is offering a 400-mile canoe trip along the Susquehanna River for serious donations. The Harford Land Committee, a local nonprofit land preservation organization, signed the sales contract last month, acting as a stand-in for the state and guaranteeing the full price at settlement in March.

The acquisition effort started four years ago, but the state couldn't come up with the money to fulfill the contract. Then it dallied over an outdated appraisal of the land, before finally approving the $115,000 in October. This was the carrot that motivated the Harford groups to step in and complete the sales transaction.

The purchase may lead to further public purchases of undisturbed lands within the Falling Branch Valley, to be used for passive recreation such as hiking and nature studies. The land will be administered and patrolled by rangers from nearby Rocks State Park.

Harford County should be proud of the combined effort of its citizens to obtain and protect this sensitive area for posterity. The commitment of its environmentally minded youth toward this project will pay compound dividends in the future, laying the basis for a caring stewardship of the land for generations to come.

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