Recreation and Parks - Parks - Bacon Ridge Natural Area
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between the Bacon Ridge Natural Area and the South River Greenway?
The Bacon Ridge Natural Area (BRNA) is a passive recreation park for hiking, nature study, and other non-intensive uses, owned by Anne Arundel County and located in Crownsville, MD. The central piece of the BRNA is 547 acres, acquired by the County in January 2011, which was previously the grounds for Crownsville State Hospital. Since 2009, the County Department of Recreation and Parks has purchased hundreds of acres of forest surrounding this parcel, bringing the total size of the natural area to nearly 1,000 acres. The BRNA is within the South River Greenway.
The South River Greenway includes all the land that drains into the South River. One hundred miles of streams in four distinct watersheds (Bacon Ridge Branch, Broad Creek, North River, Tarnan’s Branch) flow through the Greenway into the South River. Land use includes parks, farms, subdivisions, extensive wetlands, and several thousand acres of undisturbed forests which provide vital protection to the South River, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.
What is the Bacon Ridge Natural Area Stewardship Committee?
The Stewardship Committee provides recommendations to the Department of Recreation and Parks and offer direction for the implementation of the Bacon Ridge Natural Area conservation easement. The conservation easement prescribes guidelines to preserve the scenic, rural and natural character of the property and allow public access and passive recreation. The Stewardship Committee consists of representatives from the Scenic Rivers Land Trust, South River Federation and the South River Greenway Steering Committee, in addition to three residents of the South River watershed who are knowledgeable in environmental conservation and planning.
Where are the trails? Where will people park? How can I access the site?
The BRNA has a system of trails which can be accessed by special permission. These trails are in poor condition, however, and whether the trails should be repaired, rerouted or temporarily closed will be determined through a master planning process. There are no parking facilities, water, electric or other amenities on the site.
How can I access the site?
Currently, the access to the trail system is through special events held throughout the year. Special events can be scheduled by the County or by other organizations and groups. The Stewardship Committee will review all special event requests and is interested in public comment regarding the development of an access improvement plan.
Why is the South River Greenway important?
- Watershed protection for the South River and the Chesapeake Bay.
- Undeveloped forests covering over 6,000 acres including 2,400 acres of interior forests.
- Fifteen different wetland types covering 800 acres.
- Identified as an Important Bird Area by MD/DC Audubon. class="Normal"Eighteen species of Forest Interior Birds (including several species at risk) have been documented in the Greenway.
- A regionally important area for reptiles and birds according to the Gap Analysis Report – a report of biodiversity in the Mid Atlantic region.
- High priority forest block under significant development threat as identified by MD DNR’s Green Print Program and the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Resource Lands Assessment Report.
- Historical spawning area for yellow perch and river herring.
What historic and cultural resources are found in the Bacon Ridge Natural Area?
- A Native American Burial ground is located near Bacon Ridge Branch.
- Colonial barges once plied up Bacon Ridge Branch several miles above Rt. 50 to load hogs for shipment to England; the remains of a colonial wharf are still visible.
- Crownsville Hospital opened in 1911 to serve African American patients needing psychiatric care.
- The 12-acre Hosptial Cemetery is the burial place for more than 1,800 patients identified only by numbers on their tombstones.
Why is it vulnerable?
Due its location within an easy commute to major metropolitan areas, forested tracts in the Greenway are under intense development pressure. Seventy-five percent of the undeveloped forests have highly erodible soils, meaning small disturbances to the land result in large impacts to streams that transport sediment to the South River and eventually Chesapeake Bay. Despite the extensive forest buffers, 21 miles of streams are listed as in poor condition as a result of land use changes (roads and subdivisions).
Can the South River Greenway be preserved?
The Greenway has great potential to be turned into a natural area park for citizens of the county and state. The Greenway is located in the center of Anne Arundel County, ten minutes from the state capital. A vast network of trails could be developed connecting Annapolis, Crownsville, Crofton, Gambrills, Millersville, Edgewater, Severna Park, the Dairy Farm, and beyond. Nearly 2,500 acres of this land is owned by local, state or city government. Many more acres are precluded from development due to Forest Conservation Act easements and building restrictions on wetlands and steep slopes. With key land acquisitions and or easements, the Greenway can be preserved.
Who are the Partners in this project?