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The Natural Allure of Severn Run

Apr 11, 2013 07:32PM ● By Anonymous

The signs are fitting, in a way, as they symbolize the inconspicuous nature of the 2,200-acre greenway that many of us have driven over, through, and around thousands of times, without giving it a second thought. Severn Run has long lived in the shadows of nearby state parks like Sandy Point—which boasts spectacular views of the Bay Bridge and a popular beach area—and the densely forested Patapsco Valley. But the Maryland Department of Natural Resources would like to see that change.

In an attempt to attract more people to the peaceful natural charms of Severn Run, DNR management is in the process of pursuing a National Recreational Trail Grant that would enhance the area’s existing trails and possibly create additional parking.

Those improvements should raise Severn Run’s profile just enough to attract more interest, but not so much as to alter the current environment that many frequent visitors know and love.

Nature’s Treasures
Getting the most out of a visit to Severn Run—the nine-mile- long headwater stream that emanates from the Severn River and drains into a 24-square-mile watershed arcing from Veterans Highway and I-97 west to Odenton—can require plenty of planning, since visitors can approach the park from many angles.

Visitors may want to fish for naturally occurring brook trout and yellow perch by Old Mill Road in Severn or drive east toward Archbishop Spalding High School on Severn’s northern end of New Cut Road, where a newish parking lot makes for easy fishing access.

Marty Bouchard of Crownsville has enjoyed fishing yet another area of Severn Run, adjacent to Dicus Mill Road. “From late February through April, and maybe even into May, it’s possible to catch your daily limit of yellow perch,” he says smiling. “I’ve caught several stringers over the years and catch-and-release trout. It’s gorgeous and not too many fishermen know of this area.”

For the outdoorsy types, a drive down nearby Sunrise Beach Road in Crownsville offers various stops. A turn left into Evergreen Road in Arden on the Severn, followed by another couple of lefts, leads to a short walk down one of Severn Run’s many woodsy paths to a tree farm of white oak, locust, and red maple saplings. The tract behind that part of the run is used by the Chesapeake Bay Radio Control Club, a group of radio-controlled model plane enthusiasts who use the spacious property to conduct test flights.

Farther along Sunrise Beach Road is one of the few access points in Severn Run with ample parking. At Arden’s baseball fields, naturists may notice that several small, winding paths behind the diamonds seem to ramble on and on to reveal a valley of forested beauty.

Continuing just past the ballfields, the next right at Miner Road becomes a drive down to what is known as “The Arden Bog”—which Park Ranger Rodney Staab notes is a freshwater wetland that serves as home to various native plants, some carnivorous. It also leads to the man-made “Beaver Baffler,” a device that was devised to keep the bog’s industrious rodents at bay.

The Back Way
Another way to comprehend the expanse that is Severn Run is to move back up Route 178 toward Millersville and make a right at the Baldwin Memorial United Methodist Church, then head north on Indian Landing Road, as if heading toward Anne Arundel County’s Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center.

But instead of making it all the way to the entrance of the camp, make a quick left at yet another discreet entrance to the park (across from a private driveway), and you’ll find a natural amphitheatre. That’s the start of a trail that will lead the inquisitive wanderer on a Walden-esque hike or jog through yet another largely unspoiled area at the mouth of the Severn River.

This particular trail includes a 90-degree redirection at that will lead the naturist/ athlete through what DNR folk and aficionados refer to as the “Brown Property.” It eventually leads back to what the oldest generation of Anne Arundelites remember as Route 3—properly known today as Veteran’s Highway and the site of a small parking area.

As small as the parking lot is, it’s also quite easy to pop in and out of, especially for those who live near that side of the park, like Denise Traynor. She’s a longtime resident of nearby Severna Park who has frequented Severn Run for several years, often with her springer spaniel, Toby, tagging along by her side. “It’s just a great walk in the woods,” Traynor says. “It’s quiet, it’s spacious and it gives me the opportunity to have a great time with my dog in an beautiful setting that has remained relatively unspoiled in the midst of our busy area.”

Phil McGaughey, a running enthusiast from Millersville, also has frequented Severn Run in recent years, taking full advantage of the park’s expanse; his treks frequently stretch from the Veteran’s Highway entrance and extend down the main trail to the amphitheatre at Indian Landing Road—then all the way to Arlington Echo—before he returns.

Like Traynor, McGaughey revels in the peace and solitude that are a big part of Severn Run’s appeal. “As time goes on and improvements are eventually made, I really hope that the state keeps in mind the importance of the park retaining what attracts people to it in the first place,” he says, “that being here makes you feel like you’re in a natural sanctuary more so than in a typical public area.”

The Path Forward
As for the National Recreational Trail Grant, Park Ranger Rodney Staab says, if approved, the funding would include a flurry of new signs and marketing materials to improve the limited public access and awareness—reasons the sprawling park has been somewhat of a mystery for decades. Furthermore, the DNR’s Partnership for Children in Nature—which partners 16 state, federal, county, and private organizations to improve and expand opportunities for children to experience the natural world—could be initiated in Severn Run.

Touching on the “Leave no trace; leave only footprints, especially in the NEA areas” mantra, Staab emphasizes the overarching importance of Severn Run. “What Severn Run does is create forest buffers that prevent runoff—from the road, parking lots, people’s homes, etc.—from entering the Severn River, and its tributaries like the Jabez Branch, and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.” “So bear in mind that what it basically serves us as,” Staab says, “is a really big filter.”