Morgan Run Volunteers Bolster Park's Dwindling Staff

Environmental Area Is Still A `Well-kept Secret'

April 21, 1997|By Jennifer Vick | Jennifer Vick,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

When the weather warms and grass overtakes trails at Morgan Run Natural Environmental Area, Allan Taylor looks to spend up to eight hours a day mowing, using his tractor and gas.

The 1,500-acre state park along Route 97 in South Carroll depends a lot on volunteers like Taylor, a Westminster resident. With dwindling staff because of budget cuts, volunteers like Taylor will become even more valuable.

About 50 people attended a community meeting last week at Gamber Fire Hall to discuss the park's needs and its future. Morgan Run, part of Patapsco Valley State Park, is overseen by the state Department of Natural Resources.

In recent years, DNR's capital budget -- which earmarks money for building, recreational and other improvements at state parks and forests -- has been reduced by $2 million. Each state park has been affected by the cut.

Morgan Run's staff has been reduced from 32 employees to 26. Ranger Frank Ryan, whose sole responsibility used to be Morgan Run, now also handles Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area in Baltimore County and McKeldin Recreation Area in the Carroll section of Patapsco Valley State Park.

Despite such obstacles, Walter Brown, manager of Patapsco Valley State Park, assured Carroll County residents of Morgan Run's "dedicated team" and its accessibility.

"Morgan Run has become a part of the community, providing unique recreation opportunities," Ryan said. "We need a lot of cooperation. It can only get better."

As use of Morgan Run increases, the staff must continue to look for help from the community. The park also is expected to expand by 100 acres this year.

"It's tough to get people to volunteer," said Taylor, whose wife also helps at Morgan Run. "We do it because we like to. Morgan Run is one of the wonders of Carroll County. It's a well-kept secret." The first parcels of land for Morgan Run were acquired in 1975. Designated as a natural environmental area, Morgan Run will be protected as it is, with minimal development, as a recreational area.

A stream, Morgan Run, is one of the park's main attractions and draws visitors for trout fishing. Hiking, bird-watching and nature study are other activities.

Morgan Run had a "reawakening" in the late 1980s, Ryan said, resulting in the creation of a master plan for the park and increased involvement from organizations.

Carroll County Equestrian Council has provided volunteers for trail-building, local Boy Scouts have held events there and a trout-stocking program has been successful.

Recently, a 60-foot handicapped-accessible pier was built to allow wheelchair users to fish for rainbow and brown trout. Members of the Maryland Chapter of Trout Unlimited, DNR and the Federation of Fly Fishers contributed to its construction.

Brown said plans for the park call for continued enforcement of poaching laws, more control of the troublesome Canada thistle, and additional signs to increase public awareness of rules and Morgan Run.

"The more signs we put up, the more people it's going to bring in," Brown said. "We're talking about the growth of the use of Morgan Run."

Pub Date: 4/20/97

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