Land Trust Protects Old Growth Forest

By Krista Pfunder 

A purchase of 78 acres is the latest puzzle piece in a nearly five-mile belt of conservation land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, permanently protecting properties running from Kenwood Beach to Dares Beach Road in Calvert County.  

The American Chestnut Land Trust recently purchased 78 acres in Port Republic, closing the only break in close to 3,000 preserved acres along the Bay.  

ACLT’s purchase of the Governors Run Development Corporation tract permanently protects a property that dates back to the 1600s and features an old-growth forest ecosystem. 

“ACLT’s mission has always included a goal of protecting the Governors Run and Parkers Creek watersheds,” says Greg Bowen, executive director of ACLT. “The GRDC parcel was the only gap in a nearly 3,000-acre corridor of protected lands along the Chesapeake Bay.” 

The tract was part of a 1,250-acre colonial land patent mentioned in A History of Calvert County in 1647, written by Charles Stein. 

“Lord Baltimore gave Puritans who had been banished from Virginia land patents in Anne Arundel County and in Calvert County,” Bowen says. “The 78-acre parcel that ACLT purchased and preserved was also owned by the Frazier—or Fraser—family in the 1800s and was a Chesapeake Bay shipping point known as Fraser’s Landing. In later years, this location was renamed for the creek, Governors Run. A wharf at the landing served steamboat traffic.” 

The property was also on ACLT’s radar because historic maps show that the site was one of the largest forested sites in the area in the mid-1800s. 

The Governors Run Development Corporation took ownership of the property in 1981 without the landing or beach access. Since then, the corporation has maintained the land while considering development or preservation.  

“The corporation expressed its willingness to preserve the land,” Bowen says. “Then ACLT needed to raise funds to help purchase the property. The Maryland Rural Legacy Program was the perfect fit—it focuses on providing funding to preserve large, contiguous tracts of land and to enhance natural resource, agricultural, forestry and environmental protection. With the assistance of the Calvert County Commissioners and staff we were able to utilize Maryland Rural Legacy funds.” 

The tract contains a mature hardwood forest, many portions of which have not been logged for 70 years or more. Large tracts of older forest such as this are uncommon in the region, due to the clearing of forests for timber management, agriculture, and residential and commercial development. 

The property provides almost $200,000 per year in services such as stormwater attenuation, carbon sequestration, nutrient uptake, ozone removal, groundwater recharge, wildlife habitat and biodiversity potential, according to an Ecosystem Service Assessment by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. 

ACLT plans to create additional trails on the property to provide educational, scientific and cultural experiences.  

“First, we will develop a management plan and then we will build trails, which, upon completion, will be open to the public,” Bowen says. “This should take less than two years.”