Calvert Cliffs is a day-use park featuring a sandy beach, unique fossils, a recycled tire playground, fishing, a freshwater and tidal marshland and 13 miles of hiking trails located in Calvert County. (dnr.maryland.gov)
The entrance fee is $5.00/vehicle ($2.00 additional for out-of-state residents). All of the proceeds collected in the payment box are used for the upkeep of the park. This includes equipment and supplies needed to complete the projects, as well as trees and new playground equipment.
The Friends Group - A History
They opened and closed the park five days a week, patrolled the 1,400 acre facility and 88-acre Youth Group Area, cut 3-4 acres of grass in the main park, cleared 14-miles of hiking trails, posted signs and, using their own vehicles, traveled the Service Road to keep it clear for emergencies. In their spare time, they established 5 new hiking trails in the youth camp, pavilions were roofed, and money was supplied for Eagle and Girl Scout Gold Awards. New grills were put into place, picnic tables built.
They were more than capable to run the park, but finding financing was difficult. They were granted permission to charge a donation fee of $3 per car to enter the park (a first for the state of Maryland). That money managed exclusively by the Friends was used to operate the park. Calvert continues to be the only park in the state to have its funds collected in the park and managed by a volunteer group. The gates were unlocked and a new key turned in state park operations. Soon others followed by forming their own Friends group and opening closed parks across the state. .
The Friends set goals and one by one they helped make them reality.
In 1993 with the help of the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the Maryland Tomorrow Program in the local high school, an overlook was built on the fresh water marsh. Over 600 ft. of boardwalk was also constructed along the Red Trail.
Calvert had no running water or bathrooms. The Friends made those two things top priority. First, they solicited funds. Local neighbor Baltimore Gas and Electric gave generously for water fountains. The Friends tried other methods. Letter writing campaigns helped put the park in the running for special funding for a well. It took five years, but in 1998 a set of bathrooms and water fountains, other parks took for granted, could also be found at the pristine little park nestled along the Cliffs of Calvert.
The group, with newfound confidence, didn’t stop there. They petitioned the state to receive one of four recycled, all volunteer built, playgrounds in 1995. Again persistence prevailed. In April 1996 a 1.2-acre playground rose from the sandy hill thanks to over 200 volunteers who gave more than 2,300 hours to make it reality in only 4-days.
From playground to other park needs, the Friends continued their quest. A new workshop, complete with concrete floors and electricity, was built in 1999. Previously, a dirt floor shed with no electricity had served the park. An office for DNR and the Friends was added in 2000, giving the park its first emergency location point.
As the park continued to thrive, the Friends became employers. A fulltime maintenance man and gatekeepers were hired to collect entry fees. New equipment was purchased gradually. Left with only a push mower and a weed whacker, the park now has power saws, welding equipment, building tools, a 6-wheeler for trails, a large John Deere tractor with blade and bucket, a towing trailer and many smaller necessary tools. All were purchased with funds generated by the park and managed by the Friends.
The Annual Solomons Island Biathlon has used the park as a leg of its course. The park has hosted the Annual Pre-Historic Egg Hunt at Easter. Volksmarches and Audubon hikes have taken place there. Girl Scouts have earned Silver and Gold Awards. Boy Scouts have earned Service Stars and Eagle.
Maintaining the 14-miles of hiking trails in the park and the 5 trails at the youth camp is a constant. For many years the Friends did all of the trail maintenance. Now that huge task is broken up between volunteers and hired DNR summer help. More recent projects have included new additions to the playground, re-surfacing the Orange Trail Bridge, replacing the bathroom roof and interior ceilings, planting 66 fruit trees along the open space of the park, clearing debris from winter storms, a new bulletin board at the beach and benches along the Red Trail, just to mention a few.
What’s next for the FOCCSP Pioneers?
If you speak to any dedicated Board-member, you’ll hear the excitement in their voice as they tell how far they’ve come in the past 26 years and how they have plans for many more projects which will ensure that the gates of Calvert Cliffs State Park will never be locked again.