Throughout the winter months the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife and Heritage Service conducts Serpentine Ecosystem Restoration Program (SERP) events at the ecologically fragile Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area in Owings Mills. Read on for our wrap up of this season's accomplishments!
Have you made a new year’s resolution to get into shape? To be more fit? To engage more with the natural world in all its wild beauty and wholesome influence on your physical, mental and emotional health?
Come meet the rehabilitated wild animals who serve as ambassadors of Patapsco Valley State Park's Scales & Tales program. The naturalists at Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area will be leading tours of the aviary during our annual Holiday Open House event from 9:00 a.m. to noon on Saturday, December 8!!
View the sun through a solar scope in our parking lot! Learn about the history of Soldiers Delight and the all-volunteer Friends group who supports it. Buy a baked treat at our bake sale. Meet Jack Wennerstrom and Frank Wisniewski, authors of Soldiers Delight Journal Revisited, a truly gorgeous coffee-table compendium of photographic wanderings through all four seasons at Soldiers Delight NEA. Click on the image for details.
Beginning in 1988, Alice June "Ajax" Eastman and the late Elizabeth K. “Beth” Hartline chaired the conservation council’s Maryland Wildlands Committee. They led a campaign to keep more of the state’s natural areas free from development, vehicles and active resource management. "It was feisty advocates like Ajax who led the push to get protections for areas such as Soldiers Delight, which is set aside as preserved Wildlands for the future", says SDCI board president Laura Van Scoyoc. "We owe a debt of gratitude to the diligent labors and the foresight of people like Alice, who provided a way to keep these special areas as intact as possible for posterity". Read on to see how Alice Eastman made conserves like Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area possible.
Have landscaping plans? Be sure that planting Japanese Barberry in your yard is not among them. Available at most big box stores, this thorny bush is a favorite shelter plant for deer mice, which are hosts for the black legged tick, a major carrier of Lyme disease and other potentially devastating illnesses in humans. Want more information? Check out this news clip, aired recently in Morris County, New Jersey.
When the eve of All Souls Day approaches, thoughts often turn to carving gruesome (and cheerful) designs into rotund orbs of orange flesh. And what better place to do it than in the auditorium at the Soldiers Delight visitor center? Our pumpkin-carving program, an annual fundraiser for Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc., the Friends group for Soldiers Delight Natural Environmental Area in Owings Mills, Maryland, is always a festive event. But this year we enjoyed the company of live, wild animals (and a mummified one) added to the mix!
If you believe in ghosts, then the Soldiers Delight Natural Environment area in Owings Mills might be the perfect place to spend an evening on the weekend before Halloween. The Soldiers Delight visitor center is constructed atop Berry's Hill, where the final act of one of Colonial Maryland's most gruesome murder cases was played out 266 years ago.
Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc. was proud to be included among the 63 recipients of BGE's environmental stewardship Green Grants this summer. The grants support environmental initiatives across central Maryland and bring the company's cumulative total of Green Grants support to more than $1.6 million.
James L. Dudley was one of the finest, most dedicated volunteers Soldiers Delight Natural Environmental Area ever had. Read more about how this unique human being impacted a rare ecosystem for generations to come.
|Jean Worthley in 2008|
Jean had recently hosted a potluck dinner with her botany class in celebration of her 92nd birthday at Two Below, her rustic property in Carroll County, Maryland. Until the very end, Jean retained an encyclopedic knowledge of plants, birds, and the natural world, and was able to cite their Latin names as easily as their common names.
Rest in peace, dear Miss Jean. We'll miss you.
|Jenna, Ali and Jamie prepare for a Sunday"Feathered Friends" display|
|Richard H. Smith hunts for butterflies on the serpentine at Soldiers Delight on May 15, 2016|
|A turkey vulture displays her 42-inch wingspan|
Ah, the first day of Spring! What better way to bring vibrant color to the dreary, barren, late-winter landscape than by decorating eggs with herbs and then dyeing them in a multitude of vibrant colors, all derived from natural ingredients found in one’s own fridge, cupboard or nascent garden?
|All kinds of ornaments fashioned from natural materials could be made at the SDCI Open House|
|SDCI board president Laura Van Scoyoc shows off her pumpkin-carving style|
|Johnny Johnsson stands on a truck-bed full of high grade Chromite at the French Hill Mine|
|Tyler and his daughter, Ilana|
|Soldiers Delight Ranger Sara Marcinak displays an American crow in 2015|
Today SDCI launches its new website, designed and built by volunteers. The key goals of the new site are to provide a better vehicle for informing the public about the unique natural environment that is Soldiers Delight, while at the same time enabling SDCI to more easily present that information. We're excited to bring it to you!
Once a year, Patapsco Valley State Park hosts a "Family Fun Day" in which all the Park's "areas", along with the attendant organizations which advocate for and help to maintain or run those areas, spend the day staffing tables, displays and exhibits which highlight their respective contributions to the park system. Admission for visitors is free on this day, as the various groups strive to feature what is special about each area and attract new volunteers.
SDCI board president Laura Van Scoyoc successfully completed her sawyer recertification yesterday, meaning she is now fully equipped (again) to wield a chainsaw against any formidable species of invasive plant which dares to encroach on the sensitive habitat which makes up the serpentine barrens.
Congratulations to Laura!
|Patapsco Valley State Park Scales & Tales naturalist Tabitha Aguirre holds a red-tailed hawk at SDCI's annual open house|
|A fanciful pumpkin directs participants into the library's meeting room on the third floor of the Owings Mills Metro Centre|
|SDCI Vice President Lynell Tobler with an American kestrel|
There's hardly a square inch of the 1,900-acre Soldiers Delight Natural Environmental Area that Johnny Johnsson hasn't walked, mapped or studied. That includes the scant remnants of several 19th-century chromium mines at Soldiers Delight in Owings Mills. Some of these mines once reached as deep as 200 feet beneath this chromium-bearing geological anomaly, known as a "serpentine barren."
Johnsson, a Finksburg resident who is an environmental engineer by profession — and a mining historian by avocation — has been a volunteer ranger and tour guide at Soldiers Delight, which is part of the Patapsco Valley State Park system, since 1990. For years, Johnsson has devoted much of his free time ferreting out maps, land deeds, letters and other documents relating the mining history at Soldier's Delight.
"Growing up in Reisterstown, I collected rocks and was aware of Soldiers Delight as a kid," said Johnsson, who by day works in the quarry industry, for Vulcan Materials Co. in Hanover, Pa., specializing in environmental permitting and compliance. "Then I went away to college and studied mining engineering at Virginia Tech," he said. "After that, I began working in the stone quarry industry and got interested in mining history. "I did research in Baltimore County land records and the Maryland Hall of Records, the Maryland and Baltimore County historical societies," he said.
His pursuit of records even took him to the Vermont Historical Society, where he studied a hand-written journal of a mine owner. The journal included an account of a visit the mine owner made to Soldiers Delight in 1834, and conversations he had with a mine operator there. In the early 1990s, Johnsson, 49, began volunteering at the Soldiers Delight visitor center, on Deer Park Road, and started leading occasional 2-mile, two-hour history hikes. His educational hikes are based on his extensive research, and he offers them twice a year, in spring and fall.
According to Johnsson, the mines at Soldiers Delight, along with others in the Bare Hills district of Baltimore County, were the largest producers of chrome in the world during the 19th century. Johnsson said the mining industry at Soldiers Delight ebbed and flowed over the years, along with the demand for chromium. Early on, chromium was used as pigment for yellow paint, and later for munitions. "The chromium mines at Soldiers Delight date back to the 1820s," he said. "I've tracked down some of the descendants of the owners. And I've researched old deeds and legal cases and found maps and old pictures to document the history of the mines.
One of the mines can still be visited today, though only traces remain of the others. The entrance to the old Choate Mine is just across Deer Park Road from the Soldiers Delight visitors' center. "The Choate Mine was opened around 1830 and operated for a while, then shut down," he said. "Then it reopened around the time of the Civil War and operated until about 1880. "The last time it was reopened was in World War I, when chromium came back in demand for use in armaments," he said.
On his tours, Johnsson shows visitors some of the antique tools and equipment similar to those that would have been used in the Soldiers Delight mines. Visitors also get to pan for chromium.
Johnsson also explains the geological conditions that created Soldiers Delight, which is the largest and most diverse of the few remaining serpentine barrens on the East Coast. The environmental area has been described as a "2,000-acre chunk of the American West dropped into Maryland."
In both ecological and geological terms, Soldiers Delight is unlike any place in the area and is home to 39 rare, threatened, or endangered plant species, along with rare insects, rocks and minerals. "It's a serpentine barren, so the bedrock is metamorphic rock, called serpentinite," Johnsson said. "It originated when the continents collided and the lower oceanic crust got thrust up on to the surface of the continent. And later, when things pulled apart and eroded away, there were pieces of it left. "And because the rock was of such a deep origin it has some of the heavier stuff in it, like iron, chromium and nickel. So the chromium, which is usually found much deeper in the earth, is nearer the surface here, in this dark, ultramafic rock."
Johnsson will hold his next Soldiers Delight mining tour in spring 2013. The exact date hasn't been determined yet, but will be posted on the Soldiers Delight Friends group website calendar of events — http://www.soldiersdelight.org/events/. Tours begin at the Soldiers Delight Visitor Center, 5100 Deer Park Road, Owings Mills, and are free, though donations are accepted. They are open to anyone age 10 or older. Advance registration is strongly advised. Those interested can register in person at the visitor center, or by calling 410-922-3044.
Meanwhile, the visitor center at Soldiers Delight is open Saturdays and Sundays 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., weather permitting, and is also open Monday through Friday, when staff is available. In the winter months, it's always best to call ahead.
|Mary Vincett Lewis|
In 1965, Mary joined Jean Reese Worthley, Florence Rogers and William Fastie to form Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc., which fought successfully to have hundreds of acres of serpentine barrens set aside as a nature preserve in Owings Mills. While serving on our board of directors, Mary chaired our land acquisition committee for many years and fought to have her childhood home site be made a part of Soldiers Delight NEA, which eventually occurred in 2004. Mary was also a signatory to the Delight Quarry reclamation development plan covenants, a site which was eventually developed in 2015.
Mary continued to attend and participate in board meetings even after she could no longer drive. Her husband brought her to the meetings and waited patiently in the lobby of our visitor center to take her home again afterward. Considered one of the "founding mothers" of Solders Delight Natural Environment Area, Mary's contribution to the protection and preservation of this globally rare ecosystem was immeasurable.
She will be deeply missed.
Sidney Emmer, developer of nearby complex The View at Mill Run, makes a significant and welcome contribution to SDCI.
Don Domain (1942-2011), board member and past president of the Friends of Soldiers Delight, passed away on April 9, 2011. The Board of Directors is deeply saddened by this significant loss to the conservation community.
He will be remembered for his many years of staunch and devoted service on behalf of Soldiers Delight and all of Maryland's State Parks, and for his knack at inspiring and encouraging others to do the same.
An obituary can be found here.