Appreciating the new Bohemia River State ParkDec 07, 2022 11:02AM ● By Tricia Hoadley
Photos courtesy of https://patrickrogersauthor.com
Julie Dieguez, exploring by kayak, reveled in “colorful images of free-spirited artists and vibrant wall tapestries” and “a wealth of intertwined ecological and cultural history.”
Patrick Rogers, visiting on foot and on the water, praised “a remarkable mix of environments.”
They were writing about their experiences at Bohemia River State Park, one of Maryland’s newest state parks. The park, which opened on Earth Day, runs along Great Bohemia Creek and Burkalow Creek, 2 miles south of Chesapeake City, with the main entrance on Augustine Herman Highway.
Writing on www.FindYourChesapeake.com, Dieguez offers an ode to fauna and flora from her “thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating excursion” run by the Sultana Education Foundation.
“We gradually wound our way into a peaceful marsh-bordered cove,” she wrote. “Accompanied by a pair of bald eagles, a kingfisher, and the first of many great blue herons, we glided deeper into the cove, learning about the effects of the river’s salinity on regional wildlife and plants.
“As we gazed over pickerel weed, arrow arum, tuckahoe, wild rice, and more, it became clear how these creeks served as veritable bread baskets for those who settled here, providing fodder for export as well as sustenance.”
Over to the river, through the woods
Rogers made multiple trips. “Mostly, the park seems to have been envisioned as an easy access point to the truly beautiful Bohemia River,” he wrote on https://patrickrogersauthor.com. “And yet, as unassuming as those 462 acres are, they contain a remarkable mix of environments, from open agricultural fields to hardwood forests, marshes, beaches, tidal inlets, and open water.
“As of now the park contains a modest five miles of trail, though a plan is in place to expand that to ten. Given the gentleness of the terrain, the paths currently in existence are far from difficult as they wind through pleasant ferny ravines and descend to the Bohemia and its tributary, Burkalow Creek.”
Bohemia refers to the region of the Czech Republic where Augustine Herman was born. His descendants – including the Bayards, a family for centuries prominent in Maryland and Delaware politics – owned the land until it was bought by the state.
In 2016, the owners approached the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, which long had a interest in conserving the property, said David Satterfield, director of land conservation for the conservancy.
“ESLC worked with partners ... to identify a potential funder for the transaction, which ultimately led to [the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’] interest in the property as a state park,” he said. The conservancy negotiated with the landowner and bought and held the property “until Maryland could get the necessary approvals to purchase the property,” he said. “The importance of ESLC’s involvement was about time, as we lack many of the barriers that DNR has that prevents them from acting quickly.”
Maryland bought the land in 2017, but it wasn’t until 2021 that it began major improvements, including parking (18 cars in a gravel lot, plus five horse trailers on a reinforced turf lot) and those mixed-used trails. What is likely to be the biggest draw is yet to come: an easy drive to a waterfront car-top boat launch site. Paddlers now have access further south, on the other side of the highway, near the Bohemia River bridge, on land owned by Cecil County.
A second phase of park development, to be done by 2025, will feature a road to a car-top boat launch at Oak Point, more trails, a small picnic pavilion, restrooms and parking for 75 more cars.
The park’s shoreline features 8,600 feet of waterfront along Great Bohemia Creek, 1,500 feet of first-order non-tidal streams and 40 acres of emergent wetland.
The acreage is being managed as a Natural Resource Management Area because it includes “rare, threatened, and endangered flora and fauna,” according to the park’s website. “Recreation on NRMAs is typically low-impact, passive recreation, such as hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, wildlife viewing, fishing and hunting” The primary goals of such areas – and Fair Hill and Sassafras are also natural resource management areas – are protection, conservation and education.
Two plant species of note have been identified, Park Manager Rachel Temby said, but “in the interest of protecting these vulnerable populations, we prefer not to disclose further details.”
Hunting of white-tailed deer will be conducted during the applicable season, for hunters with all the required permits. No other hunting is permitted.
In the past, the entire park was farmed, the state concludes, noting “the young woods that characterize the forested areas.” The Maryland Forest Service and Cecil County Land Use and Development Services in 2020 increased the forested land by planting 2,450 hardwood trees on 8 acres farmland along Great Bohemia Creek.
The land in Bohemia River State Park is varied today: 225 acres of hydric and upland forest, 112 acres of farmland, 60 acres set aside for planned conservation and 29 acres for planned habitat restoration. Hydric refers to areas permanently or seasonally covered in water; upland land is not.
The park map defines the acreage as leased agricultural fields, forested areas, restoration areas, a pollinator meadow and shoreline. Restoration areas dominate the view from the main entrance to the parking lot and restrooms. The map lists three trail features: the meadow; a scenic overlook at the end of the Greenbrier Trail, on the mouth of Great Bohemia Creek; and Oak Point, a popular launching site for kayaks and canoes. Two bridges carry the trails over some of the park’s water features, which include ephemeral streams and seeps (areas moistened from an aquifer).
The park contains a few vintage structures. A federal-style main house was built in the early 1800s, with wings added later. Working with the Maryland Historical Trust, the park is restoring the exterior, and it’s planned to house park staff.
A repainted Pennsylvania-style barn has had stone foundations repointed, support beams installed, rotten floor and board-and batten woodwork replaced and eight broken windows fitted with historically accurate replacements. It’s being used for storage.
“There are no plans to open these buildings to the public for programming or rentals,” Temby said.
Bohemia River State Park is open 7 a.m. to sunset daily. The main entrance is at 4030 Augustine Herman Highway (Route 213), with parking $3 per vehicle for Maryland residents.
Your questions answered
Rachel Temby, manager of the new Bohemia River State Park, said these are the most common questions that park staff members have been getting. This Q&A has been edited.
Q. Can I launch my kayak at the park? When will the soft launch be ready?
A. Park visitors can access the water by foot, bike or horseback. Some folks have been wheeling their kayaks the half-mile down to the water and back again. Paddlers are encouraged to utilize the existing public water access at Route 213 and the Bohemia River Bridge. This county-owned land abuts the park, on the west side of Route 213. The soft launch in the park will be ready in 2025.
Q. I have a Golden Age Pass/Annual Passport. How do I get into the park?
A. For a free swipe card for park entry, email your address and a photo of your existing park pass or military ID to [email protected] or contact the duty ranger at 667-500-2417.
Q. What is the park doing about the spotted lanternfly?
A. The park is controlling the invasive spotted lanternfly with fall spraying of adults in target areas, plus removing host trees of heaven. This fall, park staff sprayed 65 host trees along the main trails and plans to continue to remove host trees and conduct insect removal as practicable.
Q. Is the park open for equestrian use?
A. Yes. There is designated horse trailer parking adjacent to the main parking area. Horses are allowed on all trails and all field edges. If the main trails are muddy, we ask that that riders use the field edges only. Riders have have told us it’s a 2.5-hour ride to do the entire park.
Q. Can weddings be held at the park?
A. While weddings are not expressly prohibited, the park lacks key support amenities, such as a pavilion. Plus, the small parking lot is first come, first serve. There are no reservable areas in the park; nor is there any cover from the elements.
Another new state park
Pennsylvania’s new Big Elk Creek State Park adds 1,712 acres of preserved land right on top of the 5,656 acres of the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area in Cecil County.
Big Elk Creek, a day-use park that closes at dusk, offers “passive recreational activities, including trail hiking, bird watching, horseback riding, fishing and hunting,” its website says. “The majority of the park consists of lovely farmlands and forest. The park acts as a wildlife corridor and provides refuge for an array of threatened and endangered species.”