Since its founding just a few years ago the Maryland Off Highway Vehicle Alliance (MDOHVA) has been working with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to try and get new off roading opportunities open in the state of Maryland. CORE has been a member for several years but this year took the big step of increasing our contributions through a change in our bylaws, and also a CORE Member stepped up and joined the Board of the MDOHVA to make sure that the full-size 4×4 community voice was being represented.
Just a few weeks ago we heard that the MDOHVA and Maryland DNR were looking for 20 volunteers, representatives from the four branches of off road recreation represented by the Alliance (full-size, side-by-side, quads, and dirt bikes) to come out and visit the recently announced Wolf Den Run State Park. We would be helping provide some of the work needed to clear the trails and prepare the park to open, and give feedback on areas of improvement or concern. Of the 5 slots going to full-sized 4×4’s myself (CORE President) and Mike O’Grady (CORE Treasurer and MDOHVA Board Member) were invited to represent our club and our larger community. Just before the event we learned bringing a spouse or family member was fine, and so we met at 10am at the specified location available to help in any way we could.
Daryl Anthony, current MDOHVA Board Member, introduced us to the Maryland DNR folks, who explained the scope of the days work, and the path forward. We decided to break into two groups. One group would stay on Parcel A and clear large dump sites and load the debris into large DNR pickup trucks brought for the occasion. A second group would head down to Parcel C and mainly focus on trail clearing by cutting back brush and overgrowth from the trails. Both groups would be exploring mostly for the first time as well.
Since travel on public roads was necessary to get from our meeting location on Parcel A to Parcel C it was decided the full-sized group of vehicles along with a few trailered other vehicles would go check out Parcel C together, leaving the rest of the group on Parcel A. We headed back out to the main road from our meeting point and 10 minutes later arrived at the our entrance into Parcel C.
A short time after entering the property we came to a large clearing. Those with vehicles that were trailered unloaded them and we headed off in two groups, with the full sized guys sticking together and the side-by-sides and quads going off on their own.
The full-sized group, lead by Daryl, moved slowly. We frequently came to areas where the brush was overgrown or a tree was down and needed cleared. It wasn’t hard work, but it would have taken a smaller group much longer to clear it. The terrain was varied. Everything from fairly level sandy soil to rockier sections where you definitely had to pick a careful line. There were spots where the trails were wide and vehicles could pass each other, and other sections where the brush touched both sides of the vehicle. Pinstriping was definitely happening.
The trail even included sections with some water running down them thanks in part no doubt to the recent rain. This part of the state is no stranger to rain with nearby Oakland receiving nearly 50 inches per year on average. The signs of water drainage were apparent and made for a more interesting terrain for us to traverse in our vehicles.
Near the end of our journey into Parcel C we came upon the muddiest area we had seen all day. The area clearly is home to several large mud puddles year round. The deepest had 3 optional lines with several of us opting for the deepest and most challenging one. Some of the vehicles in our group made it through some had to back off and try another line past it. It was a highlight for all in the group though to see how the vehicles and drivers handled this new obstacle.
Just past the mud puddles we came to a large spoil pile, mining debris left over from the past. Although it had trees all around and on it there were also clear lines up and down the pile from multiple angles. The pile had some very steep lines which had clearly been enjoyed by someone in the past, and some areas with large crevices which would be an interesting challenge for a vehicle with massive tires and suspension travel. What made it especially unique was the steepness and sharpness of some of the features, while the whole thing was made up of fairly low traction crumbling mining materials.
We met up with the group of quads, side-by-sides, and dirt bikes at the spoil pile and after some in the group had fun going up and down it several times we turned around to head back. The drive back, now clear of various forms of overgrowth, took the full-sized part of the group about 40 minutes to traverse back to pavement. Looking at the report published regarding the OHV Trail Assessment for this park it appears we only covered about 2 miles of the 66 miles of trails on this property! While I’m sure not all of them will be appropriate for full-sized 4×4’s this area clearly represents a very large and densely packed new recreational space for the off road community.
We headed back to the original meeting point on Parcel A and regrouped. The two DNR F-550’s were full, one with tires and the other with bulk garbage such as a deep freeze chest freezer that had clearly been rusting for quite some time. Over hot dogs and cookies we discussed areas of improvement and made suggestions for a smooth running park.
While it’s easy to find bad elements in any community the DNR folks seemed pretty excited to have such a responsible and volunteer ready group that showed up and was ready to roll up their sleeves to make a park for themselves a reality. We need to continue to show interest and support for this new park, including via the online survey hosted by the DNR right now, and through community engagement opportunities such as the upcoming Open House on October 20th in Kittzmiller, MD.
One last important note is to call attention to the potential positive impact this new park can and will have on the local community. It’s obvious how this kind of park benefits the patrons, but the benefits will go far and wide in this region of the state as well. My wife and I decided to make a weekend of this trip, choosing to stay in nearby Swallow Falls State Park from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. Over the weekend we purchased gas and ice at a local gas station. We purchased camping supplies locally to support our trip. We purchased firewood and fire starters. We purchased some lubricant for my vehicle which I forgot to deal with before we left. My wife purchased some jewelry made by a local vendor. And on our way out of town we stopped to get lunch at a local restaurant, and even visited the Oakland B&O Railroad Museum.
We represented just one couple, for one weekend, coming to the area due to a unique recreational resource Maryland is about to open. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the financial impact this new park will have on this region of Maryland and the communities within. The off roading community is ready to work hard to make this new park a reality. I’m already planning my next trip back!
Parcel A Track:
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Parcel C Track:
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Trail report written by Andrew Taylor.