For almost two decades, Jack Shagena has volunteered at Harford Glen Environmental Education Center.
During that time, he helped start the Harford Glen Foundation and built three bridges, a log cabin and picnic tables.
"I got involved at Harford Glen because I felt the outdoor education was very important for fifth-graders to learn about the environment," Shagena said.
Recently Shagena took his interest to the next level when he completed Harford Glen: An Outdoor Classroom & Preserve, a history about the Harford Glen Environmental Education Center and a fundraiser for the Harford Glen Foundation.
The book is the first in a series of projects that Shagena is starting, in which he will help to interpret the historic properties at the site.
The book is a tribute to the program and the property, said Mark Herzog, who manages Harford Glen.
"Jack's book is a huge compliment to more than 300 years of folks trying to do the right thing," said Herzog, assistant supervisor of science for the county's school system. "When he builds bridges to the past like he does, people see it's a progression of generations of people who have worked to improve the land and the program."
The idea to write the book came in 2002, shortly after the cabin was completed. At that time, Dennis Kirkwood, supervisor of science for the county school system, asked him to write a book about the site. He eventually agreed, and spent more than a year researching the history of the site, Glen Echo Farm.
The farm was built in 1806 on a parcel of land just off of Wheel Road in Bel Air, where Harford Glen is located, according to the book.
The farm was condemned by the U.S. government during World War II. Then in 1948, the 245 acres of land and 75-acre lake were given to the Harford County Board of Education under a 25-year lease.
To name the property, a contest was conducted and the name "Harford Glen" -- suggested by Mrs. William Mahrer, a biology teacher at Bel Air High School -- was chosen.
The site was first used as a resource for sixth-grade teachers who wanted to take classes to Harford Glen for a learning experience outdoors, Shagena wrote.
In 1978, an outdoor education program for fifth-grade students in the county schools was started.
Today, the residential program serves 60 classes per year, and has expanded to 20 weeks per school year. The foundation was started to help raise money for the program.
During the next decade, Shagena, 71, intends to help restore the icehouse, corn crib and smokehouse, and create interpretive programs at the sites.
"We want to restore the icehouse and allow kids to come in and look and see how an icehouse looked and was used," Shagena said. "We want them to see equipment that would have been used, like an ice saw, and ice picks. I think it will help them appreciate why it was important."
Bill Sisson helped Shagena build the cabin, and he drew the mansion house illustration on the cover of the book, he said.
"I wanted to show the house accurately," said Sisson, who took photos from several different angles to get the right view. "I get so frustrated when I look at a historical book, or a map of a battle, and the pictures don't match the text."
Sisson became involved at Harford Glen as a volunteer in the 1980s, when his daughter visited with her class, he said.
"When the kids come through here, and you listen to them talk, it makes you feel like this is the best work you have ever done in your life," said Sisson, 80, a retired engineer. "People know who I am because of this place. The kids in my neighborhood tell their parents, `Old man Sisson who lives on the corner, helped build the cabin at Harford Glen.'"
When Shagena, also a retired engineer, isn't working at Harford Glen, he's working on his latest project -- a book on the history of barns in the county.
"My passion is to write and learn about history, no matter where it is," Shagena said.
Shagena, who has written several other books, including one on blacksmiths, said he wanted to focus his attention on a book that would have a broad appeal. Shagena and Peden, with noted genealogist Henry Peden, are traveling rural Harford County taking pictures of barns, he said.
"Barns are the farmer's castles," Shagena said. "A farmer's life depended on the barn. It was a place where the crops and equipment were stored."
Finding information about barns has been difficult, he said.
"There isn't a lot of information out there about barns," he said. "We have to look between the lines to find information."
The two historians turned to old newspapers, court ledgers, and online databases for information, Shagena said. And they are looking for the barns on frequent trips through the countryside.
"We are looking through every nook and corner of the county for barns," Shagena said. "You can't see some of them from the road. And some of them pop up over the hillsides. We are using the more interesting ones in our book."
The book will include history and photographs. Pictures, addresses and owners' names will be listed when available.
"My principal reason for writing these books is to learn things that I didn't know about the county," Shagena said. "It's also an opportunity to put the pieces of the puzzle together so that the readers can understand it."