Former farm opens for recreational use

After 20 years, Kinder property becomes public park

July 08, 1999|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

It has taken 20 years to make the transformation from cattle-rearing to recreation, but the farm that once belonged to a family of German immigrants is now land for all of their neighbors to enjoy.

Kinder Farm Park, a 288-acre parcel along Jumpers Hole Road in Severna Park, will soon open to residents, who have been waiting since 1979 to enjoy the pastures and fields. The first part of a three-phase, $12 million expansion is near completion, but many residents have been enjoying the view already, said Ranger Bill Offutt.

"They've been in here for months, ever since we cut the trail," Offutt said. "People were on the trail before we even paved it."

Although the gates are not scheduled to open officially for two weeks (a back order of parts needed for the restrooms has caused the delay), some have already participated in tours and bird-watching events scheduled by park rangers.

Tomorrow morning, a group of children will tour with a ranger looking for foxes. Saturday, an orientation tour is scheduled.

Kinder Farm Park will boast a newly paved hiker-biker trail that runs 2 1/2 miles around the park's fields, groves and meadows. Bird-watching trails, which go off the beaten path and into thickets, give bird lovers a closer look at the animals.

Picnic tables, benches and grills are perched in the shade along the hiker-biker trail.

Also in the new park are garden plots where residents can grow plants and vegetables, and a three-level, three-quarter-acre playground for preschool and elementary-school children. Two cedar pavilions with tin roofs that coordinate with the farm theme will accommodate 100 picnickers.

For sports fans, the Garcelon Athletic Complex, which has existed for years in the southeast corner of the park, will get two new multipurpose fields, a baseball diamond, a bathroom and a maintenance shed. The fields will be available in the fall.

Phase two of the project, which could be completed in the next two years, calls for a visitors center, historical farm and museum that will teach about agriculture in Anne Arundel from the turn of the century through the mechanized era in farming, when Kinder Farm was at its peak. There will also be a horse trailer parking area added in the northern end of the park. Equestrians are welcome to roam the unpaved trails. The athletic complex will also get another field.

Nearly $1.5 million in county money is included in this year's budget to assess the farm buildings on the property and make improvements, said Jack Keene, chief of planning and construction for the Recreation and Parks Department.

The final phase calls for more upgrades in the park and athletic complex to include lighting for the playing fields, additional pavilions and another bathroom.

Severna Park residents have known Kinder Farm Park for the last dozen or so years because of the Garcelon Athletic Complex, built on about 60 acres of park property in the early 1980s, soon after the county bought the site. The complex is home to the popular Greater Severna Park Athletic Council and its Green Hornets community teams.

But the remainder of the park -- 228 acres, with nearly 100-year-old farmhouses and silos, lush green meadows that house rodents, burrowing creatures and ground-nesting birds, and a small pond with large mouth bass, sunfish and turtles -- has laid dormant for 20 years, used sporadically by equestrians out for a jaunt, and walkers.

But growing cries for more space from the soccer moms and dads of the athletic council, and a constant push from the Greater Severna Park Council, a community association, brought the $4 million in construction money needed.

Severna Park residents, long on patience, are anticipating the opening, tentatively scheduled for July 17.

"The minute those gates are officially open, I think you're going to see a mad rush to the park," said Albert Johnston, treasurer of the GSPC who has represented his neighborhood several years pushing for funds to open it.

A lifetime ago, grains sprouted from the fertile soil, beef cattle grazed in the meadows and the Kinder family planted, harvested and made plump the cattle to be sold from their 1,000 acres stretching through central Severna Park.

The land first took the Kinder name just before the turn of the century, when A. Gustavus Kinder first bought 41 acres for farming in 1898, according to county historical records. It was the first of a series of purchases made by the family.

Gustavus' son Henry bought 100 acres adjacent to the original property in 1902. Gustavus' parents bought 23 1/2 linking acres in 1906, and two years later, Gustavus bought another 52 acres.

The farm, located very near one of the stops on the Baltimore Annapolis railroad, flourished during the truck-farming era, when trains helped deliver fresh goods quickly to urban areas, historians said. Produce farming in the county declined by the second quarter of the century with the development of refrigerated trucks, so the Kinders shifted from raising plants to beef cattle.

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