Park Week Kickoff Event at Soldiers Delight

SDCI's display at Maryland's Park Week Kickoff event
The day might have been cool and clammy, but everyone was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the inaugural kickoff to Maryland State Park Week at Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area in Owings Mills. Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc. (the Friends group for Soldiers Delight), was delighted to participate in the event whose theme was “LEAVE NO TRACE”. We presented displays to show attendees all the different ways people continue to leave negatively impactful traces on our site if they are not mindful. The COVID pandemic, of course, has exacerbated detrimental impacts to the habitat, as a pandemic-weary public has turned to our public lands for solace and exercise.

Soldiers Delight has been heavily impacted by overuse this past year; excessive and illegal parking and the creation and use of unauthorized ad-hoc trails that both contribute to erosion and to destruction of the rare serpentine habitat have been detrimental to the survival of our rarest species. Even authorized trails have widened and eroded from so many extra hikers.

Other impacts have included the dumping of trash and the casual discarding of litter, especially COVID masks which threaten wildlife, and of not packing out one’s dog waste (if you put it in a plastic bag please take it out!). Plastic bags can take centuries to degrade, and they never completely disappear.

Surprisingly, many harmful impacts come from beyond our borders at SDNEA. Metallic and plastic balloons drift in from elsewhere, but most importantly, invasive plant species (a type of pollution that reproduces itself!), are deliberately planted as ornamentals in people’s backyards, where their seeds are inadvertently scattered by wildlife into our fragile ecosystem.

This display shows how easily invasive plants can destroy native habitat
Our interactive display featured two large bulletin boards, the first of which featured many of the invasive plants which currently threaten to overrun the serpentine ecosystem. These invaders, most of which are widely available at big box stores as ornamental landscaping plants, include miscanthus, more commonly known as Chinese silver grass and zebra grass, Japanese barberry, and Chinese sumac, also known as Tree of Heaven. 

SDCI president Laura Van Scoyoc created an exhibit full of informative photographs and information about what NOT to love about these invasive bushes, vines and trees that have no natural enemies to keep their numbers in check. As birds spread the seeds of invasives from neighboring backyards, the invasive flora take root in wilderness areas such as SDNEA, overtaking the natural plant species and, in some cases, threatening to wipe out native vegetation altogether.

This bulletin board displays the many ways that humans can negatively impact our fragile ecosystem
When Lieutenant Governor Rutherford arrived at the Soldiers Delight visitor center, he was keen to learn all he could about our unique habitat, having never visited before. We were only too happy to regale him with fascinating bits of history about the area.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio gives welcoming remarks
When Maryland Department of Natural Resources secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio got up to speak, she emphasized that the public should enjoy our natural resources responsibly, while taking the opportunity to learn about the history and natural history of the outdoor places we explore.

Maryland's Lieutenant Governor, Boyd Rutherford, encouraged Marylanders to make a positive impact on the environment
Eventually, it was the Lieutenant Governor's turn to speak. Mr. Rutherford was eager to note that while the forests, parks and wildlife management areas in Maryland offer ample opportunities to appreciate natural beauty, enjoy new adventures and make lasting memories, we should remain ever mindful that we can make a positive impact on the environment and our communities by picking up after ourselves and our pets, keeping to designated trails and not parking outside of designated parking boundaries.

 Lt. Governor Rutherford presented a proclamation from Governor Larry Hogan declaring April 10 to 16 Maryland State Park Week
At the end of his remarks, Lt. Governor Rutherford presented a proclamation from Governor Larry Hogan declaring April 10 to 16 Maryland State Park Week and recognizing the important role that state parks and recreational areas play in the lives of Marylanders.

 “As we continue the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, we should continue to explore the hidden gems in our backyards and take advantage of the outdoor recreational opportunities available to us all,” said Mr. Rutherford, adding that Marylanders should "rethink the way they view their relationship with nature and explore how they can make a positive impact on the environment and our communities." We couldn't agree more.

More Articles...