Could Falling Branch be going under?

JULIA FOSTER, Reporter

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   Over the years, one of Harford County’s treasures, Kilgore Falls, more commonly known as Falling Branch, has become threatened by tourists.  The mass tourism does not only disturb the wildlife in the park, but the people living around the falls as well.

     While having a hotspot in Harford County is very exciting and great for tourism, and potentially small business, one must also realize the damage visitors potentially could be doing to the environment.  After visiting the Falls, it is not uncommon to find scattered wrappers, alcohol, drug paraphernalia, and trash left there by tourists. As a result, the area is a less than desirable place for locals to continue to visit.  

     County councilman Chad Shrodes has had numerous and extensive conversations with many high level representatives from the DNR, who have expressed their awareness of the issues that are impacting the Falls as a result of overuse.  Anyone who lives in the area would agree that overuse is somewhat of an understatement. Ask those who live nearby about the issues with parking and vandalism that begins the minute the weather gets nice.

     A meeting was held on May 21, at Whiteford Library to discuss actions Harford County should take to protect the wellbeing of what at one time was Harford County’s best kept secret. It’s about time.  This meeting was long overdue and perfectly timed since summer is just around the corner.

     Several speakers including Andrew Hagen, Rocks State Park Manager, Ranger Steve McCoy, and the Regional Manager of the MD Park proposed solutions to resolve the overuse and eliminate negative impacts on the community.  

   The meeting was heavily attended by residents living on Clermont Mill Road, Falling Branch Road, and Red Bridge Road as well as members of St. Mary’s Church. After presentations from numerous speakers, a majority of attendees expressed interest in completely closing the Kilgore Falls area completely to the public.

     Real people were able to share their own stories about the Falls as well as what they thought should be done in response to the issues occuring.  In short, the community is trying to prevent stupid people from doing stupid things at what was once a favorite place for may in the area.

     Proposals included prohibiting swimming, pets, strollers, jumping from rock formations into the water, and alcohol use at Kilgore Falls.

     When you tell someone they can’t do something, they will get the itch to want to do it more.  With that said, will tourists be willing to give up the chance to take a dip or the thrill of climbing a big rock? Only time will tell, but this seems like an unlikely solution to the problem at hand.

      Sadly, in the best interest of the park, officials have decided they will try to have Kilgore Falls removed from tourist travel sights like Visitharford.com and Trip Advisor in order to minimize foot traffic on the trails and keep the water clean. Along with putting up multiple, bilingual signs and warnings regarding parking violations, and prohibited activities at the park, as well as a electronic sign board to inform visitors when the park is at capacity in order to keep traffic moving safely.

   Will something as simple as a sign deter tourists from taking part in prohibited activities? Probably not.  The real issue is not about signs, or rules, it’s about limiting access to the park to the appropriate number of people while preserving the natural beauty of the attraction.

      Ultimately, access to the park is a privilege, not a right.  People must begin to understand that when you abuse a privilege and break rules, it can and will be taken way.  This ia a prime example of a good thing being taken away from people who care because people don’t know how to respect things that don’t belong to them.  Hopefully we will be able to learn an important lesson from this experience, so the community will be able to enjoy Kilgore Falls for many years to come.

     

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Could Falling Branch be going under?