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Tribute to SDCI Board Member Joe Kelly

joekellyatfamilyfundaycropped04-28-19.jpgIt is with profound sorrow that the Board of Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc. announces the passing of our esteemed and much-loved board member, Joe Kelly.

Joe Kelly first became involved with Soldiers Delight through his longtime friendship with its current president, Laura Van Scoyoc. Joe’s acquaintance with Laura spanned almost forty years, dating back to when they first met in 1986.

One winter day in 2004, when Laura said she was going off to Owings Mills to perform several hours of volunteer work outdoors hacking away at invasive species threatening to overrun rare and endangered plants native to the serpentine barrens that run through northwestern Baltimore County, Joe offered to tag along to see if he could be of help. Joe became involved with Soldiers Delight for the rest of his life.

In 2007, after many hours spent volunteering with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Service’s Serpentine Ecosystem Restoration Project, or SERP, Laura invited Joe to accompany her to a board meeting of Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc., the Friends group for the habitat, of which Laura had been a longtime member. After attending a few meetings and expressing his desire to become involved with our cause, Joe was voted in as a member of the board of directors.

When Joe was not busy working his shift as an intelligence analyst for the defense sector, from which he retired in 2023, he made every effort to attend board meetings, to continue his work helping to eradicate invasive plants with SERP projects during the winter, and to assist with various fundraisers and other activities hosted by SDCI.

"Joe was the most generous, kindhearted man I've ever known," says SDCI president Laura Van Scoyoc. "He wouldn't hesitate to help with anything that was needed, no matter how much time or effort it caused him."

Joe recently returned to Maryland following a nearly year-long stint in Texas caring for an elderly family friend who was dying of cancer. Following her death, Joe stayed several additional months to get her house fixed up and ready to sell and to care for her beloved dog and cat. Out of the goodness of his heart, Joes offered to adopt the cat and had just returned home to Maryland with his new feline companion.

The SDCI board will remember Joe with much love. His enormous capacity for caring -- and translating that compassion into physical acts of great kindness -- made Joe stand out as a rare gem.

Hot on the Trail!

hotonthetrail07-17-24.jpgIs it hot enough for you? Sunny days on the serpentine barren raise the temperature of the trail beyond that of the air. Hiking at Soldiers Delight NEA is not recommended during periods of extreme heat. Heat related illness and dehydration can and have occurred. Pets without protected paws risk serious burns requiring evacuation on sensitive, protected ground.

On July 16, 2024, the air temperature was 100ºF and the surface of the trail was 135ºF, owing to solid serpentine bedrock just below a shallow surface of soil. Please recreate responsibly in this rare ecosystem and visit on cooler, cloudy days or early in the morning after sunrise.

SDCI Celebrates National Night Out!

omntcaphoto0108-01-23.jpgThe weather could not have been better for National Night Out 2023 which, since 1984, has designated the first Tuesday in August as a day for communities to come together in fellowship, to get acquainted with their police and fire departments, with the local business community, and with their neighbors. Hundreds of residents emerged from their homes to enjoy the camaraderie of simply "being together" with one another in the "Central Park" area of the New Town community in Owings Mills, Maryland, parts of which back up to the Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area.

nno-0508-01-23.jpg SDCI Board President Laura Van Scoyoc, Vice President Lynell Tobler, board member Josh Day, along with Josh's son, Jason, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife & Heritage Service outreach specialist Edwin Guevara, arrived early to set up our booth for the event.

nno-0108-01-23.jpgWe offered lots of fun at our booth this year. There were samples of chromite ore, calsite, soapstone, magnesite, serpentine rock and other mineral samples to pick up and examine, all examples of the prehistoric geological makeup of the serpentine barrens, a winding stretch of fascinating strata that stretches from Nova Scotia to Alabama. And there were games to play! The SDCI booth offered candy to anyone who could tell us why certain plants in our display were "bad". Children could engage with our "cootie catchers", a form of origami in which folded paper is labeled with images or messages from which a player chooses, and on the inside are eight flaps, each concealing another hidden picture or secret message. It's no surprise that our images depict the wide variety of rare and endangered butterflies and plants that inhabit Soldiers Delight.

nno-0608-01-23.jpgOne of the most enjoyable activities we offer at our outreach events is an opportunity for children to dress up in genuine Nomex firefighting clothes, don a heavy water-filled bladder-pack and take turns shooting spray at red "Solo" cups, simulating the actions our burn teams employ when conducting a prescribed burn at Soldiers Delight.

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Harjot Maan, 9, of Owings Mills, tries his hand at "controlling" the flames in our prescribed burn activity for children
We had many enthusiastic children offer to participate in our prescribed burn activity this year. Letting the children squirt water at our faux flames provided us with a perfect opportunity to explain to their parents the fascinating history of the "burn culture" employed by Native Americans hundreds of years ago and why prescribed burns are so important to preserving the native habitat at Soldiers Delight today.

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Arianna Crowell, 7, of Owings Mills, takes aim at the faux flames with the same water-bladder that our real fire fighters use when conducting a prescribed burn at Soldiers Delight
Many visitors to our display were curious about what effect April's unexpected wildfire had on the Soldiers Delight conserve. We were happy to report that, while the wildfire was not planned and was a frightening experience for everyone, hundreds of acres of invasive greenbrier burned away, which was a blessing in disguise. Millions of native grass seeds had been lying just beneath the surface of the soil, awaiting a time when there would be enough light and air circulation to allow them to sprout. Greenbrier had been crowding out those native grasses for years. Within a week of the fire's extinguishment, native grasses, including Indian grass and little bluestem grass, had sprouted and was growing robustly throughout the burned area.

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SDCI board member Josh Day talks to Owings Mills New Town residents Robert and Arlene Nusbaum about the importance of using only native plants in landscaping
Our display was not all fun and games, however. Probably the single most important outreach message we impart at Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc., is to implore neighboring residents to purchase only native plants with which to landscape their yards. The dangers of planting non-native, invasive species of plants, vines, shrubs, flowers and trees, many of which can be purchased at any local garden center or big box store, cannot be overstated. To our target audience, the homeowners in the Owings Mills New Town community whose properties are near or adjacent to the Soldiers Delight wilderness, our message is especially urgent: the seeds from common but terribly invasive ornamentals, groundcovers and landscape specimens, several of which we displayed at our booth, are eaten (and later expelled) by birds, caught in animal fur, and carried on the wind out of neighborhood yards and into Soldiers Delight NEA and other wildlands, where they sprout and spread with abandon.

nno-1008-01-23.jpgThe Owings Mills New Town neighborhood common area, a vast expanse of green space with a community garden and a dog park, was filled with happy residents enjoying National Night Out's various booths offering free food from area restaurants, including Mission BBQ, Lido's Pizza and Rita's Ice. There were demonstrations by local businesses and fire and police departments, and fun displays of all kinds, including a large bounce-house. Our SDCI display saw a steady stream of neighborhood families for the full two hours of the event; it was estimated that more then 1500 people turned out this year! As dance music wafted from a nearby stage and families munched happily on local restaurant fare, it was clear that the Owings Mills New Town Community Association’s National Night Out event was a success. SDCI was certainly happy to be invited back this year.

Irvine Nature Center to Feature Soldiers Delight Experts!

irvineeatdrinklearnsdcipresentation05-18-23.jpgCurious about how the recent wildfire at Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area impacted the habitat? Hear (and see photos of) how this globally unique ecosystem weathers natural and manmade threats and why its preservation is so important.

Read the full article...

Soldiers Delight fire less damaging than thought; regrowth already visible

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Holding a piece of Indiangrass, Wayne Tyndall, retired DNR state restoration ecologist and current board member of SDCI, stands in the Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)
On Friday, April 14, 2023, Christine Condon of the Baltimore Sun, along with Sun photographer Kim Hairston, met SDCI board member Wayne Tyndall at the Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area in Owings Mills for a walking tour of the area burned in a 321-acre wildfire on April 4. Please read the excellent article Christine wrote about the fire and the "reason for joy" at Soldiers Delight as fresh, native grasses and blankets of wildflowers are expected to "spring from the scorched dirt in a beautiful display of resilience."

Soldiers Delight Trails Have Reopened!

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Native grass seedlings sprout from the scorched ground at SDNEA just a week after the fire
SDCI is excited to announce that Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area has reopened to the public. As always, our trails are open to foot traffic only.

Read the full article...

State Fire Marshal Seeks Your Help!

wildfire2504-05-23.jpgThe Office of the State Fire Marshal and several other agencies are asking for the public's assistance with an investigation into a sprawling wildfire that chewed through 321.4 acres in Baltimore County, almost all of which were in the Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area. 

Investigators would like to speak to anyone who was in the area of the serpentine trail of Soldiers Delight Overlook between 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Additionally, investigators would like to speak with anyone who may have been on the serpentine trail behind the visitor center on Sunday afternoon.

Anyone with information about the fire should contact the Office of the State Fire Marshal at 410-386-3050.

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