Maryland Nature Camps Protected

Monkton, MD, 4/11/02 — Generations of Baltimore-area youth will benefit from the same resources enjoyed by their parents and grandparents, thanks to a public-private partnership that permanently protects approximately 300 acres of Camp Alkor, Camp Kalor and Camp Puh’tok along the Gunpowder Falls. The camps adjoin Gunpowder Falls State Park and occupy the largest single tract in private ownership along the Gunpowder Falls, one of the main sources of drinking water for the Baltimore metropolitan area. The project is part of ongoing efforts to protect the natural resources within the state-designated Gunpowder River Rural Legacy Area.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land conservation organization, and the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy, a Baltimore County conservation organization, negotiated a conservation easement protecting the camps in perpetuity. The camps have been providing recreational opportunities and wilderness experiences to boys and girls of metropolitan Baltimore since the 1930s.

“Permanent protection of this large forested tract will help preserve the rural character of the area, protect the water quality of the Gunpowder River, and ensure that future generations of young people have the outdoor educational and recreational experience this facility provides,” said Maryland Governor Parris N. Glendening. “The significant contributions made by our partners to help preserve this property demonstrate the importance of the Rural Legacy Program to our citizens, local governments, businesses and land preservation organizations.”

While the camps have supported their operations through nominal fees and donations of time, labor and funds for more than seven decades, they are under increased financial pressure to sell all or portions of their property due to increasing land values in the area and their need for capital to maintain the camps’ facilities and programs. The camps provide a rustic, wilderness setting for nature and social programs that educate Baltimore area youth and are used as outdoor classrooms by many Baltimore school groups.

“This agreement allows the camps to continue to provide outdoor experiences for children while ensuring that these resources are forever protected from development,” said Lynda Frost, project manager for the Trust for Public Land. “Without this action, it is likely that the camps would have had to sell off parts or all of the properties in the future to meet their financial needs.”

Gunpowder Youth Camps, Inc.—a partnership of the Towson American Legion, Towson Kiwanis, Cockeysville Optimist and Towson/Timonium Rotary Clubs—owns Camps Alkor and Kalor, consisting of approximately 228 wooded acres. Funding for the purchase of the $915,000 conservation easement on this property was provided by the State of Maryland Rural Legacy Program, Baltimore County, MNBA Foundation, the Bunting Family Foundation, and the France-Merrick Foundation.

The easement, which allows for limited expansion of the rustic camp facilities but prevents any future subdivision, will be held and monitored by the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy and Baltimore County. Gunpowder Youth Camps is placing the proceeds from the sale in an endowment for scholarships to assist financially disadvantaged children and to support the maintenance of camp facilities and youth programs.

The adjacent 67-acre Camp Puh’tok, owned and operated as a non-denominational camp by the Salvation Army, has year-around camping and nature education facilities and hosts many Baltimore area school groups. The Salvation Army donated a conservation easement on the property to the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy to ensure that it is protected in perpetuity. In exchange, the Abell Foundation made a donation to the camp to establish an endowment to support scholarships for Baltimore area children.

The camps are located outside of the historic town of Monkton in northern Baltimore County—a rural area caught between the suburban sprawl spreading north from Baltimore City, and south from York, Pennsylvania. The property is located along the Gunpowder Falls near the North Central Railroad Hike and Bike Trail and Gunpowder Falls State Park, a major recreational attraction.

Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, conservation finance, and law to protect land for public use and enjoyment. To date, TPL has protected more than 1.4 million acres of land nationwide including more than 4,600 acres in Maryland.

The Gunpowder Valley Conservancy was founded in 1989. Its mission is to preserve the historic and natural heritage of the lands within the Gunpowder Watershed in Baltimore County. To date it has protected 625 acres in the watershed. In addition to its land preservation efforts, it is active in historic preservation and education, habitat restoration, and in a trails program within the Gunpowder Falls State Park.

Keeping Our Commitment: Preserving Land in the Chesapeake Watershed, a historic report by the Trust for Public Land and the Chesapeake Bay Commission, documents the need to protect an additional 1.1 million acres of watershed land, and calls for $1.8 billion in new local, state and federal funding to meet Chesapeake 2000 commitment of protecting 20% of the Bay watershed by 2010.