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History

Maryland Forestry and State Parks Centennial
Final Report, June 27, 2007

To mark the centennial of the founding of state forestry and state parks in Maryland, the Maryland Forest Service and the Maryland Park Service, agencies of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, cooperated on a number of activities during 2006 and the beginning of 2007.  This report is a summary of the activities and accomplishments of the Maryland Forestry and Parks Centennial Committee. 

The committee was comprised of employees from the two services, as well as volunteers.  It funded most of the observance activities with donated funds.

The committee first met at a luncheon on October 20, 2004, at the Elkridge Furnace Inn, in Elkridge, Maryland.  The historic Inn is located within Patapsco Valley State Park.  At this meeting a number of ideas for centennial observances and projects were identified.  The committee continued to meet monthly into 2007 to further plan and execute centennial events and projects. 

Accomplishments: 

  1. Contributed to financial support for a sabbatical taken by Geoffrey L. Buckley, Professor of Geography at Ohio University, to research and write an academic study of the career of Fred W. Besley, Maryland’s first state forester.  The book is scheduled for publication late in 2007.
  2. Kicked off the centennial observance at the 2005 annual meeting of the Maryland Forest Association meeting on November 4 and 5 of that year at the Rocky Gap Lodge and Conference center, at Rocky Gap State Park.
  3. Supported the research and publication of a popularly oriented picture history of Maryland forests and parks, authored by Maryland Park Service historian Robert F. Bailey, III.  The book was published in November 2006 under the title Maryland’s Forests and Parks: A Century of Progress, by Arcadia Publishing.
  4. Encouraged and assisted Maryland Public Television’s documentary The Best Days of Our Lives: The Centennial of Maryland State Forests and Parks.  This production was part of MPT’s established series Outdoors Maryland.  Documentary premiered on MPT, November 14, 2006, and subsequent rebroadcasts.  Public response has been overwhelmingly positive and documentary was nominated for an “Emmy” award in the public service documentary category.
  5. Erected bronze plaques and held dedication ceremonies at the following eight sites across Maryland that are important to the history of Maryland forestry and parks:
    1. University of Maryland, site of the first State forest tree nursery. Dedication held April 5, 2006;
    2. Hilton Area, Patapsco Valley State Park, to commemorate Patapsco as the first state park.  Dedication held May 23, 2006;
    3. Wye Oak State Park, to plant a clone of the original Wye Oak, also to exhibit works of art produced from remnants of the original Wye Oak by Maryland artists.  Dedication held June 6, 2006;
    4. High Knob Area, Gambrill State Park, to commemorate the role of the Civilian Conservation Corps in developing Maryland’s forestry and parks during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Dedication held on September 17, 2006
    5. Orange Grove Area, Patapsco Valley State Park, to commemorate the Besley family’s demonstration camping activities on Maryland forest/park land in the 1920s.  Dedication held October 10, 2006;
    6. Deep Creek Lake State Park, to commemorate the role of fire towers and fire wardens in suppressing forest fires during the early 20th century.  Dedication held on October 15, 2006;
    7. Garrett State Forest, to commemorate the Garrett brothers’ bequest of the first state-owned forest land in Maryland, April 10, 2007.
    8. Gambrill State Park, to observe the 100th birthday of Helen Besley Overington, daughter of Fred W. Besley.  Buried the Maryland Forest and Park services time capsule at Gambrill, with Mrs. Overington officiating by throwing in the first handful of dirt, July 31, 2007.
  6. Developed and posted a Maryland Forestry and Parks Centennial Web site.
  7. Presented four Centennial sessions at the annual Maryland Recreation and Parks Conference at Ocean City, Maryland, and provided a Centennial exhibit, April 18-20, 2006.
  8. Encouraged and conducted ceremonial tree plantings in many Maryland counties.
  9. Initiated an oral history project with interviews made with retired employees of the two services.
  10. Produced 50 die-cast 1:30 scale collectible replica of a Dodge Power Wagon forest fire patrol truck, such as was used from the late 1940s into the 1960s.
  11. Produced a centennial calendar.
  12. Reproduced Fred W. Besley’s classic booklet Forest Trees of Maryland.
  13. Placed centennial exhibits around the state, some for long-term display, some for single event display.  Notable among these displays was one that appeared in the store-front window of the Garrett County Historical Society in Oakland for a four-month period; another that appeared at the Garrett County Visitor Center in McHenry, Maryland, for a 10-month period and at the Deep Creek Lake State Park Discovery Center for 18 months; exhibits in the lobby display case of the J. Millard Tawes Department of Natural Resources building in Annapolis, for three months. Used a trailer fitted out as the Maryland Forestry and Parks Centennial Trailer, and taken to special events to highlight the centennial.
  14. Surveyed the sites of at least 34 forest fire lookout towers that were active from the 1930s to the 1970s across the state.  At the time of this report, the survey is on-going and will result in publications.  Barbara Garner, a former employee of the Maryland Park Service and volunteer on the committee has undertaken this monumental task.
  15. Produced at least 16 popular and academic articles on various aspects of Maryland forest and park history, written by different people and published in a variety of publications.
  16. Produced and delivered many talks to public and professional groups on forest and park history.
  17. Presented approximately 10 living history programs using reenactors in period dress representing people of importance to forest and park history.  The reenactments included Robert Garrett (portrayed by Al Feldstein from the Department of State Planning), Fred W. Besley (portrayed by Offutt Johnson), and early forest wardens (portrayed by Francis Zumbrun).
  18. Entered a Maryland Forestry and Parks unit in the annual Autumn Glory Parade in Oakland on October 14, 2006, that was viewed by approximately 50,000 spectators.  This was a major undertaking headed by former employee and volunteer Offutt Johnson.  Other contributing entities were Deep Creek Lake State Park; Potomac-Garrett State Forest, and number of Garrett County schools, the Maryland Conservation Corps, and the Garrett County Historical Society.
  19. Developed and provided Centennial promotional items to include: pins, patches, hats, and shirts for forestry and parks staff, and committee members
  20. Reinstated the historic Calvert Cross and Oak Leaf (red, white and green) shoulder patch and logo.
  21. Designed and created a special Centennial badge for Maryland Park Service law enforcement personnel, to be used during the Centennial year.
  22. Some Committee members participated in Patapsco Valley State Park’s100th anniversary gala celebration at the Elk Ridge Furnace Inn on June 4, 2007.  Though this event was sponsored by the Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park rather than the Centennial Committee, it dovetailed nicely with the Centennial Celebration.

Financial Support:

Although both services provided staff time and equipment, as will as some financial support, to help accomplish the 2006 Maryland Forestry and Park Centennial, generous donations from corporate sponsors and private individuals made the Centennial activities possible.

On the Park Service side, one anonymous private individual generously donated $10,000 to digitize and transcribe about 50 taped oral history interviews that had been undertaken in 1980 with veterans of the Civilian Conservation Corps.  The Maryland Aggregates Association, Inc., contributed $10,250 from five of their member companies and one private contributor. The Maryland Aggregates donations resulted from the efforts of Yvon Bergevin of Aggregate Industries and David Thomey of the Maryland Aggregates Association, Inc.  These gentlemen devoted considerable time to making the donations possible.  Other private donations brought in an additional $1,050.  The Days Cove Reclamation Company, through the help of Ken Bennix, contributed $2,500.  Altogether, on the park side, private and corporate donations equaled $23,800.

The Park and Resources Conservation Foundation, Inc., and the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association, Inc., provided a most valuable service by acting as a depository for these funds, and wrote checks to cover centennial expenses.

On the Forest Service side, the Maryland Forests Association served as banker for $12,723 in donations.  These donations were forthcoming chiefly through the efforts of Centennial Committee member Kirk Rodgers, whose family business the Besley and Rodgers, Inc., continues the private forestry business started by Kirk’s grandfather, Fred W. Besley.  The Besley-Rodgers family, including the matriarch, Helen Besley Overington, 99 year old surviving child of Fred Besley, participated in various centennial activities.

Centennial Committee:

The Maryland Forestry and Parks Committee deserves special mention.  The members were the “miracle workers” who, despite severe state budget cuts and staff shortages, placed a high priority on staging the centennial observance.  Motivation for participation were many, but the common thread was a heart-felt dedication to memorializing the record of the first hundred years of Maryland forestry and parks history as well as to research and record as much as could be done during the centennial year, an effort that continues.

Recognition of Individuals:

Countless individuals contributed time and effort to making the 2006 Maryland Forestry and Park Centennial possible.  The following is a list of many of those individuals, and is no doubt incomplete.  Additional names will be found among the material in the Centennial Time Capsule.

  • C. Ronald Franks, Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources during the Centennial year
  • Ronald Gunns, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources during the Centennial year
  • Col. Rick Barton, Superintendent of State Parks
  • Lt. Col. Rusty Ruszin, Assistant Superintendent of State Parks
  • Steven Koehn, Maryland State Forester and Centennial Committee member
  • Susanne Stahley, Susan Jacobson, and Mike English of Maryland Public Television, which produced the broadcast documentary on Forest and Park history
  • Ross M. Kimmel, State Park Historian for the Maryland Park Service and chair of the Maryland Forestry and Park Centennial Committee
  • Robert F. Bailey, III, research historian for the Maryland Park Service, for research into forest and park history and authoring the book Maryland’s Forests and Parks: A Century of Progress, and Centennial Committee member
  • Geoffrey L. Buckley, Professor of Geography, Ohio University, for research and anticipated monograph on the work of Fred W. Besley and the early years of forest and park history in Maryland
  • Thomas Gamper, Chair of the Governor’s Commission on State Parks and Centennial Committee member
  • Kirk Rodgers, Besley and Rodgers, Inc., and Centennial Committee member, grandson of Fred W. Besley
  • Francis (Champ) Zumbrun, manager of Green Ridge State Forester and Centennial Committee member
  • Laurie Witcher, Development Officer, Maryland Park Service
  • Kenneth Ropp and Paul Farragut, members of the Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park
  • Herb Schwartz and David Rowland, members of the Friends of Maryland State Parks, Inc.
  • Steve McCoy, Chief of Interpretation, Maryland Park Service and Centennial Committee member
  • Maureen Brooks, Mike Huneke, Frank Lopez, Pam Kelly (Centennial Committee member), Pam Cressman, Richard Egolf, Jack Perdue, Donna Baker, Beth Sanders, Chip Broadwater, and George Rocky, all of the Maryland Forest Service
  • Roberta Dorsch, volunteer coordinator for the Maryland Park Service and Centennial Committee member
  • Cindy Ecker, manager of Cunningham Falls and Gambrill State Parks, and staff members Mark Maas and Eric Creter
  • David Baker, manager of Deep Creek State Park, and staff members Patty Manown-Mash, Caroline Blizzard, and volunteer Tom Carr; also park staff and volunteers
  • John Denning, manager of Potomac-Garrett State Forest, and wife Linda
  • Karin Miller, executive director, Maryland Forest Association, Inc.
  • Jack Perdue, Maryland Forest Service
  • Dave Goodwin, Chuck Montrie, Jeff Williams, Tom Ross, Diane Collins, Ritch Stevenson, and John Marshall of the Maryland Recreation and Park Association
  • Sandi Trent, Ritch Sevenson, and Joe O’Neill of the Park and Resource Conservation, Inc.
  • Anthony Burrows and Linda Wiley of DNR Information Technology Service for design and construction of the Centennial Web site
  • Bob Boal (President), Gretchen Schaffer, Eleanor Callis, Junior Ferguson, Paul Shogren, Terry Helbig, and Cliff Dewitt of the Garrett County Historical Society;
  • John Cornell, Peter Lampell, Dorie Coleman, Michael Walsh, Darlene Pisani, and John Wald of the Department of Natural Resources Office of Communication and Marketing
  • Barbara Garner, former assistant manager of Seneca Creek State Park, Centennial Committee member and researcher into the forest fire towers of Maryland
  • Christina Holden, public relations and marketing manager, Maryland Park Service
  • Professor Patrick Kangas, Coordinator of Natural Resources and Park Management Curriculums, University of Maryland, Centennial Committee member
  • David Thomey, Maryland Aggregates Association, Inc.
  • Offutt Johnson, retired naturalist at Patapsco Valley State Park, and wife Joan, for numerous contributions to the Centennial
  • John Norbeck, Central Regional Manager, Maryland Park Service
  • Neal Herrick, Eastern Regional Manager, Maryland Park Service
  • Daryl Anthony, Central Regional Manager, Maryland Park Service
  • Gary Burnett, manager, Patapsco Valley State Park, and staff
  • John Ohler manager, Wye Oak State Park, and staff
  • Chris Anderson, Western Regional Manager, Maryland Park Service
  • Steve Cummings of the Forest Fire Lookout Association
  • Michael Gregory, manager, New Germany State Park, and staff
  • Kitty Shortall, retired fire tower lookout and communications officer for the Maryland Forest and Park Services, and her daughters Kay Beasley and Joan Huber
  • Ward Ashby, retired Deep Creek State Park manager.

The Maryland Forest Service had its own internal Centennial committee, the members of which were as follows:

  • Donna Baker
  • Pam Cressman
  • Terry Galloway
  • Mike Huneke
  • Pam Kelly
  • Steve Koehn
  • Kathy KronnerFrank Lopez
  • Jack Perdue
  • Beth Sanders
  • Francis Zumbrun

The many contributions of these individuals, and others not named, are gratefully acknowledged.

Individual and Corporate Sponsors:

 Many individuals and corporate entities made financial contributions to the 2006 Maryland Forest and Park Centennial, as follows:

  • Anonymous, for digitizing and transcribing CCC oral history interviews
  • Besley and Rodgers, Inc.
  • Yvon Bergevin and David Thomey, Maryland Aggregates Association, Inc.
  • Lafarge, David M. Slaughter, president of Ready Mix Concrete and Rick Sheetz, vice president, Aggregates;
  • Reliable Contracting Co., Inc., John T. Baldwin, president;
  • Maryland Materials, Inc., Cyndi Brodnyan, chief financial officer;
  • York Building Products, Inc., Chris Kaminski;
  • Days Cove Reclamation Company, Ken Bennix;
  • Heritage Resources, Ltd, Paul D. Durham, Jr.;
  • Dr. Frances Shulter Ellis (wife of Spencer P. Ellis, deceased, former Director of Forests and Parks)
  • Mountaineer Log and Siding, W. Thomas Myers, Jr.;
  • Central Atlantic Toyota;
  • Maryland-Delaware Chapter, Society of American Foresters
  • Northrup Grumman
  • Smurfit-Stone Container, Inc.
  • Maryland Christmas Tree Growers Association
  • Montgomery County Forestry Board
  • Mary Cosby (granddaughter of Abraham Lincoln Sines)
  • Cropper Bros.
  • Edrich Lumber
  • Offutt and Joan Johnson
  • Paul Jones
  • James Thomas
  • Laurence Sharp
  • Letha Williams
  • Roy S. Eberle
  • J.V. Wells

The contributions of all these corporate bodies and individuals are gratefully acknowledged.

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