Although we had mild temperatures this winter, I always look forward to getting back to the outdoor recreational opportunities afforded by spring’s milder temperatures and increasingly longer daylight hours. I recently took advantage of a clear but brisk morning in early March to steal away to a gem of a property in the outskirts of Westminster, Maryland, the Wakefield Valley Golf Course. As I stood in the tee box of the third hole, a 549 yard par 5 with Copps Branch bisecting it at about 250 yards, I gazed out on the fairway and contemplated my strategy. It was going to be challenging, especially for a hack like me. It was now time to commence with what I came to do. I reached back into my bag to grab the plan. I had to stick to the plan. How would the species be mixed? What was the best layout for the ease of maintenance in years to come? Could we really reforest 22 acres of this city park in three days?

The Wakefield Valley Golf Course opened in the late 1970’s during the golden era of the Golden Bear. However, interest in the sport nationally has waned over the years and the course, like many across the country, fell on hard times. Westminster City acquired the property in 2012. Since that time the community has used the site as a passive park focused on the cart paths. The city maintains the property by primarily focusing on mowing the areas adjacent to this cart path trail system. Although there have been many ideas on how to develop this public site, the city’s master plan indicated that “the property should be maintained as a park in a manner that is safe and inviting to all members of the public”.

In 2021 the city developed a master plan specifically on how the property was to be developed as a park, and reforestation of some of the open and mowed fairways and along the Copps Branch is an essential strategy. This reforestation effort is the result of several strategic meetings and planning sessions with Westminster City’s Department of Recreation and Parks, Maryland DNR Forest Service and Carroll County’s Department of Land and Resources. We implemented this riparian and upland reforestation project through our turnkey Healthy Forests Healthy Waters (HFHW) program that we coordinate with MD Forest Service, Maryland Forestry Foundation with funding from the MD DNR’s Chesapeake and Coastal Bays Trust Fund.

For this project, we selected 22 tree and shrub species that reflect the city’s goals to improve wildlife habitat and the aesthetics in the park, improve water quality of the streams and, most importantly, will grow well in the various site/soil conditions at the park. In total, 6600 trees and shrubs were planted by our natural resource contractor on 22 acres of the park in less than three days. Each tree and shrub was planted with a tree shelter that will protect it from the abundant deer population while it establishes to the new site geography. We will provide maintenance services for the newly planted forests for three years, which consists of controlling competing vegetation (mowing and spot spraying) and straightening and re-staking fallen shelters. We had also planted 3 additional acres at the park in the fall 2022 as part of the Alliance’s inaugural TreeLay event.

The new Wakefield Valley Park is a special asset for the city and region. The park is already used by runners, hikers, dog owners, birders and outdoor enthusiasts and an abundance of wildlife. Just during the three days we saw three species of hawks, wild turkey, blue herons, egrets and heard calls of barred owls from the upland forests. Wildlife habitat will only improve as the new forest emerges and grass is no longer contained by regular mowing. We look forward to seeing this new forest emerge and to continue to support the community and Westminster City’s vision for this gem of a property.

Species Planted

White oak (Quercus alba): 450
Northern red oak (Quercus rubra): 300
Swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor): 300
Willow oak (Quesrcus phellos): 300
Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipfera): 350
American sycamore (Plantanus occidentalis): 350
Black locust (Robinia psuedoacacia): 300
Persimmon (Dyosprios virginia): 325
River birch (Betula nigra): 325
Black cherry (Prunus serrotina): 325
American plum (Prunus Americana): 325
Lob/Pitch pine (Pinus rigida X taeda): 325
Silver maple (Acer sacharinium): 325
Red maple (Acer rubrum): 325
Common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis): 300
Arrowood virburnum (Viburnum dentatum): 225
Common ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius): 225
Serviceberry (Amelanchier viginiana): 225
Redbud (Cercis candensis): 325
Hazelnut (Corylus Americana): 225
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra): 225
Blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium): 225
Total: 6600