Back to the Woods


Once upon a time, the land surrounding Rockhold Creek’s headwaters in Southern Anne Arundel County was densely wooded. Over generations, the land was cleared for agriculture and pasture. This fall, that land will begin the return to its roots with the planting of 12,000 new trees.

The path to the reforestation project was cleared by recent legislation requested by County Executive John R. Leopold that eliminates a restriction on the use of reforestation money paid by developers. 

“This program reduces air and water pollution, provides habitat for wildlife and facilitates educational opportunities using fees paid by people who do not include the required reforestation in their development plans,” Leopold explained.

The first beneficiary of the new law is a county-owned 400-acre farm at the headwaters of Rockhold Creek.

“This particular site was chosen in part because it is county owned and is large enough to take a substantial planting,” said spokesman David Abrams. “But it is also an important watershed.” 

The mass planting of 11,738 trees — in addition to hundreds already planted — is expected to commence sometime this fall. The 17 species will be a mix of native deciduous and evergreens, including sweetbay magnolia, bald cypress, American beech, serviceberry, pignut hickory, black gum, loblolly pine, holly and several varieties of oak.

The Rockhold Creek property is only the beginning. Next up is the 54-acre Spriggs property on the Magothy River, which the county is purchasing with reforestation funding.

Back in Southern Anne Arundel, West/Rhode Riverkeeper Chris Traumbauer is looking forward to what 12,000 trees can do in the West/Rhode river basin. 

“Planting trees has a proven benefit and fits in well with the rural character of South County,” Traumbauer said. “Adding trees to fields or pasturelands adds ecological benefits. New reports and research show that simply reforesting areas is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve stream quality. Trees stabilize the soil, absorb nutrients and provide valuable wildlife habitat.”

And they look nice, too.