Residents on the trail of nature Upscale homes sprout amid scenic vistas of Gunpowder Falls

Neighborhood Profile: Monkton

November 22, 1998|By Ron Snyder | Ron Snyder,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

For years, Lee and Ruth Fleishman traveled from Pikesville to the Northern Central Railroad Trail in Monkton for nature walks and canoeing on the Gunpowder River. Then, four years ago, the couple decided to move closer to one of their greatest loves -- nature.

"We had been traveling up here for 25 years," Lee Fleishman said. "When the opportunity to buy a house up here presented itself, we grabbed it."

The Fleishmans are two of about 191,000 people who visited the trail last year, which extends 19.7 miles through some of the most beautiful property in northern Baltimore County and stretches to the Pennsylvania line.

Monkton, halfway between Old York Road to the east and York Road to the west, was very quiet when the trail opened in 1984 and expanded in 1989. But with the old Monkton Station housing Gunpowder Falls State Park rangers, offices and restrooms, the village -- seven miles from the trail's start in Ashland -- became a favorite spot for travelers.

While weekends are the busiest time for the trail -- with such things as haunted hayrides and history walks taking place -- the rest of the week is far less busy. At times during the winter the traffic is nonexistent. The land is open and rolling, with a few homes tucked into mostly farms and estates.

Monkton also has a historic district. It includes 30 houses, some of which date to the 1800s. However, the town has only a few buildings that can be traced to its founding in the 18th century.

The historic district's buildings include the brick, three-story Monkton Hotel, built in 1853, and the brick Monkton Hall, which is across the street and also dates to the mid-19th century.

Many people move to Monkton to enjoy the horse country, while others just enjoy the open rural setting. Residents who seek a more active lifestyle are a short distance from Interstate 83 and recreation centers in Sparks and Hereford.

"Right now, we offer basketball, softball, basketball and theater. However, when the new Sparks Elementary opens we plan on offering dance, aerobics, science and many other things," said Kim Blumish, a community supervisor for the Baltimore County Parks and Recreation Department.

There has been an influx of development in the area in recent years. It began in the 1970s as farmland was sold and new subdivisions emerged. The town has seen more members of Baltimore's affluent move there.

"I've sold houses ranging in price from $300,000 to $4 million, usually on 2 to 3 acres of land," said Patti Taylor, a Realtor at O'Conor, Piper & Flynn ERA. Taylor said two-story Colonials or ranchers are most often bought, with a minimum of 3,000 square feet and on 2 to 5 acres.

Some people fear that growth is happening too fast and will bring on "cluster" developments that will detract from the area's natural beauty.

Some developments in recent years include Henderson Hill, a neighborhood of mostly Colonials that sell in the $400,000 range, and Chesterfield, a neighborhood of contemporary houses east of Interstate 83 and York Road.

Kathy Allen and her family moved from Sparks to Henderson Hill several years ago, after building a Colonial in the neighborhood.

"I grew up in Cockeysville and have always enjoyed the northern part of Baltimore County," Allen said. "I can't imagine a better place to raise a family."

However, there are people in Monkton who fear that too many people will move in and ruin the land.

One of them is Steve Cameron, who with his wife, Gloria, bought a 56-acre horse farm in the area 15 years ago. The land they live on dates to the 1790s and includes slave quarters and silos that go back to the early 1800s.

"When I moved here, we had no neighbors. Now we have 30 neighbors. Eventually the development will take away from the beauty of the area," Cameron said.

One person looking at both sides is Sheila Haskell, an agent with Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty Inc. who has lived in the area since 1980. She concedes that there has been much development in the last 20 years, but doesn't see it as "excessive."

"Right now the area is still very beautiful," Haskell said. "This is a great place to go and get away from the fast life. However, I understand those who have concerns, because every development that is built is one step closer to urbanization."

Monkton

Population: 4,615

Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 45 minutes

Zip code: 21111

Public schools: Sparks Elementary School, Jacksonville Elementary, Hereford Middle, Hereford High

Points of interest: Gunpowder State Park, Gunpowder Falls State Park Trail, Merryman Park

Homes currently on market: 31

Average listing price: $343,878*

Average sales price: $316,717*

Average days on market: 166*

Sales price as a percentage of listing price: 92%*

* Based on 28 sales in the last 12 months as recorded by the Metropolitan Regional Information System.

Pub Date: 11/22/98

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