This neighborhood park, dedicated in late 1997, is designed for passive recreation only. It was Maryland's first state, county, and private sector joint-venture wetland project.
GPS: Off Font Hill Drive N39 16 17.6 W76 51 32.9
Habitat: The diverse wetland habitats in this park include two ponds, a stream, a cattail marsh, shrubby wetlands, and deciduous floodplain forest. In addition, there are mown areas, a few ornamental conifers, and a stand of bamboo. Water levels fluctuate with seasonal precipitation. A sewerline right-of-way runs through a portion of the park so periodic clearing takes place along the line.
Layout: The park has two entry points: Centennial Lane and Font Hill Drive, with information boards near each entrance. Parking along Font Hill Drive is the safer location. (If you choose to park along Centennial Lane, you must parallel park along the street. Do not park in the small paved driveway that is marked "Authorized Vehicles Only" and do not park in the lot of the adjoining Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall.) The two ponds are separated by a wooded area and a cattail marsh. A paved path and boardwalks allow access to much of the park. There are mown areas to explore along the north edge, adjacent to mostly fenced private property (complete with barking dogs).
Best Time to Visit: Winter is a quiet time, but the other three seasons provide multiple possibilities for the nature observer. Early morning and evening are the best times to observe birds, frogs, and mammals. Saturday and Sunday early mornings are especially pleasant because there is little traffic and a minimum of human-generated sound. Mid-morning to late afternoon in summer is the peak period for dragonfly and butterfly activity.
Birding: From Font Hill Drive, first check Pond 2. Walking around much of the perimeter during migration can be useful. American Bittern and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher have both been found here. At the information board, follow the paved path across the stream. When standing on the bridge, check the vegetation and water in both directions. Be sure to scan the mature conifers on the north side of the bridge. Follow the boardwalk west. The large cattail marsh on the north has produced Virginia Rail, Marsh Wren (even in winter), Swamp Sparrow and Lincoln's Sparrow. You may be treated to a view of a Red-shouldered Hawk carrying a snake over the marsh to feed its young. South of the boardwalk lies a stream. The path continues through a small wooded area that has never been particularly productive. After emerging from the woods, cross the stream on another bridge. A Prothonotary Warbler was the prize here one May morning. The path then circles Pond 1. Bubblers keep portions open most of the year. Mallards and Canada Geese are resident and serve as decoys. American Wigeon, American Black Duck, Northern Shovelers, Lesser Scaup, and Ring-necked Duck are among the waterfowl that have appeared occasionally. Great Egret, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, and Common Moorhen (on the island) are among the special birds noted here. The shallow edges sometimes attract shorebirds, but never in large numbers. Greater Yellowlegs and Pectoral Sandpiper are among the less common species. Be sure to take advantage of the short boardwalk leading out over the water to the gazebo. This is a good place to turn around and survey the shoreline for any birds skulking in the edge vegetation. Trees and understory should be checked for passerines. Watch the sky at every opportunity; in addition to migrating and resident hawks, a Common Raven has flown over the park.
Highlights: A variety of wetland habitats makes this park a worthwhile stop in any season. It is a destination spot for anyone interested in dragonflies and damselflies. Its list of 59 species is the longest of any Howard County location.
Handicapped Access: The paved path and boardwalks allow access to a majority of the park. Grades are gentle. The entrance along Font Hill Drive is reasonable for wheelchair access—there is room to unload and the paved entrance path extends out to the road with no curb. Benches with good views provide opportunities for "armchair birding."