Gunpowder State Park Use Issues

This thoughtful letter was sent to the shop by a Gunpowder Regular. I would like to here from other fly fisherman regarding park use issues and your experiences with others user groups in the Hereford Area of Gunpowder State Park.
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December 23, 2006

As the end of the year approaches, it seems to be a good opportunity to reflect on the events and activities of the past year. I have the great fortune to live in the Monkton area and spend a great deal of time in close proximity to the Gunpowder Falls. I enjoy fishing, running with my yellow lab Moose, hiking, and cross-country skiing (if it ever snows). As much as I may treasure my reflections of the experiences from this past year, everything is overshadowed by the awareness of an insidious factor that has come to have an impact on all of these experiences – trail erosion. It seems to me that this year has been characterized by a sudden increase in the use of our trails by horses. Certainly there is a place for horses in the Gunpowder State Park, however I am uncertain that it is appropriate on all trails and all times. It is especially disturbing the see the frequency of use during wet periods. Once the root systems lying beneath the trail are torn up, the trail turns into a deep muck that requires a long time to dry out. Not only are the trails being destroyed and covered in manure, but the run off from these trails eventually makes its way into our beloved river. I have also noticed trail maintenance and clearing of downed trees from the trails; this would appear to be a good thing, however, it was my understanding that the DNR was planning to keep the trails as close to a natural state as possible. If that is the case, who is doing the work? Is it legal and in the spirit of keeping the trails wild? Are the trails being cleared to make passage easier for the horses? Trail work to prevent erosion is laudable, however if the intent is to make it easier for horses to pass through and consequently create greater damage, then this work should not be done. There are stretches of the trail along the north side of the river between Masemore and Bunker Hill that were damaged by horses during a winter about 10 years ago that have since turned into mud pits. These areas have never recovered. Trail users avoid theses spots and have created paths alongside. Is this what the future of the trail system holds – multiple braided paths, some ankle deep in mud, spilling their content into the Gunpowder with every good rain? I sure hope not. Unfortunately this seems to be the likely outcome if there is a significant increase of equestrian use of the trail system in the Hereford area.

The purpose of this letter is to find out if there are other anglers out there that have seen the same changes and to find out how to approach this issue. Fifteen years back, I was riding a mountain bike through this same area. When the laws were passed to exclude biking, my initial reaction was one of great dismay. It is now clear that this was a wise decision on the part of the state; I cannot imagine what shape this park would be in if the trail system was subject to heavy bicycle traffic. Perhaps there is a way to protect the Gunpowder State Park from this new threat, Ideally, this park would be passed on to future generations so that they could have the same, if not a better, experience as the current users. It would be a shame to leave them a park with a mangled trail system and a river destroyed by run-off.

Roman Kostrubiak

If you are aware of any activity, (such as illegal tree cutting) that you deem damaging to park lands please send us a note and we’ll forward it to the right folks. We may also ask your permission to post it on this site.Potential topics might include: Examples of stream etiquette, (both good and bad), and/or confrontations with poachers, ect.. Please email us a note