“If You Build It, They Will Come”

Taken from one of the famous quotes of the Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams, Ecotone applied this philosophy to a local restoration project and took advantage of what nature provides for free to drive positive ecological outcomes and improved water quality to Bear Cabin Branch, the local Winters Run watershed, and the Chesapeake Bay. Its name derived from a long forgotten ranger post when Harford was still considered frontier in the 1670s (verify in CMilton Wrights book at the office), Bear Cabin Branch had been dammed, ditched, straightened and dried out over the last 350 years. On property owned and managed by the Harford County Department of Recreation and Parks, the site was presented as a potential ecological restoration candidate in 2016. Leveraging funding from the Maryland Department of Natural Resource’s Chesapeake and Coastal Bays Trust Fund, the project was constructed in early 2018. When initially completed, many passersby thought the site was ugly and poorly completed; however, the messy “battleground” look was actually part of the design.

​“Ecology is messy, rough, and sometimes even ugly,” says Scott McGill, the owner and founder of Ecotone. Those holes, pockets, and oxbows are now supporting wetland plants and amphibians, as well as providing infiltration and water quality treatment for stormwater.”

Ecotone’s unique natured based approach sets the table for species like the North American beaver to colonize the site quickly. Historically trapped almost to extinction, beavers are considered a keystone species and many other wildlife depend on the beaver’s ability to positively transform the landscape, resulting in quality food and habitat. “Beavers take what we did and make it even better, plus they maintain it for free,” says McGill. In fact, McGill’s prediction was confirmed in 2020 when several small beaver dams showed up on Bear Cabin Branch. “I hope to visit this site in several years and see a larger series of beaver ponds, a large lodge indicating the beaver are raising a family, and the site teaming with other wildlife like ducks and geese. We’ve seen it happen elsewhere. There is no reason why Bear Cabin Branch can’t be transformed into what it might have been like 400 years ago, even with the development we see in the headwaters.”


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