Terrapin park shows importance of access to the Bay

A bridge in the Terrapin Nature Area leads visitors past wetlands and tidal ponds to a Bayfront beach. (ForsakenFotos, Flickr)

The Terrapin Nature Area in Stevensville, MD, reminds me why I’ve committed my career to conservation. This gorgeous park hides in plain sight on Kent Island, waving to everyone traveling eastward over the Bay Bridge, and offers so much to its visitors.

Managed by Queen Anne’s County, the 276-acre nature park has a 3.25-mile oyster-chaff walking trail that leads to a Bayfront beach. The walk from the parking lot to the beach is fairly lengthy but completely worthwhile. You’ll walk past wetlands and tidal ponds, along woods and wildflower meadows, all of which have small hidden treasures. A modest cemetery reveals the history of some Eastern Shore residents. Signs developed with financial support from the National Park Service teach visitors about the importance of wetland ecosystems. Finally, an old duck blind allows visitors to observe wildlife in the area. The Terrapin Nature Area — also called Terrapin Park or Terrapin Nature Preserve — exemplifies every reason that we conserve land in the Chesapeake region.

I recently spent an incredible day with my family at this park. We picnicked on a large piece of driftwood. My 2-year-old daughter played on the beach with our Labrador retrievers in total delight. We watched the sun set behind the Bay Bridge in awe of the fantastically bright colors. People from all walks of life were enjoying the park, too. Hikers, joggers and cyclists took advantage of the trail, people played on the beach and fished from shore. Those who want a longer hike enjoyed a direct connection from the park to the Cross Island Trail.

At one point in the day, I looked at an adjacent area of the beach, which is private land and therefore closed to the public. It was completely empty of both the people and the joy being experienced at the park. Knowing that 98 percent of the Chesapeake’s shoreline is privately owned, this trip reaffirmed my belief that parks such as this one, where people can enjoy the wonders of the Bay’s shoreline environment, are precious resources.

Although the beach is narrow and requires some effort to reach, the park gives people from near and far access to the Bay — free of charge — so that they can connect with and understand this wonderful place. They can hear the sounds of spring, like the familiar chirp of an osprey as it soars over the water and the spring peepers on the walk back to the car at dusk.

Experiences like these rekindle my desire to protect and conserve the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and they inspire others to join in the efforts of organizations like the Chesapeake Conservancy, where I work. Preservation programs, such as Program Open Space, are designed to protect land and create playgrounds and parks like the Terrapin Nature Area, so that everyone can enjoy the Chesapeake’s amazing outdoor opportunities.

In the opening line of his iconic book, Chesapeake, James Michener wrote, “Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.” I have learned through my career in conservation that there will always be hurdles to jump. Conservation, in particular, requires a great deal of time and effort to accomplish a goal of any size. However, through perseverance and dedication, we can overcome any obstacle to protecting the Chesapeake for future generations.

When I see my daughter dancing on the beach, I am reminded that places like Terrapin Nature Area and many other special places in the Chesapeake are worth the time and effort to protect — and that environmental conservation is worthwhile and right. 

I hope you’ll pay a visit to this wonderful park. If you do, please write a post about it on the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Facebook page.  Be the validation and inspiration that our community and elected officials need to hear in order to continue our progress toward protecting and restoring the Bay.

The Terrapin Nature Area is located at 191 Log Canoe Circle in Stevensville, MD, and open daily from dawn to dusk, free of charge. Nearby free parking is available at Old Love Point Park. Portable toilets are available year-round. For information, visit the Queen Anne’s County website at qac.org/1015/Parks.

Joel Dunn is the president and CEO of the Chesapeake Conservancy.

The views expressed by opinion columnists are not necessarily those of the Bay Journal.

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