In cooperation with the Middle Patuxent Environmental Foundation, Howard County Dept. of Recreation & Parks manages the 1,021 acre Middle Patuxent Environmental Area (MPEA). The main focus of the MPEA’s mission is natural resource conservation, environmental education, research, and passive recreation. The area is managed using ecosystem management concepts to restore and protect the diversity of communities traditionally found in this region.
Ongoing natural resource management projects in the MPEA include meadow habitat restoration, natural resource inventories (bird surveys, vegetation surveys, etc.), forest management, deer population management, stream water quality monitoring, and the volunteer program.
The objective of the MPEA volunteer program is to involve members of the community in many aspects of the MPEA’s management. These opportunities include:
Development and maintenance of the trail system:
- Help maintain the 5.4 miles of hiking trails mainly by pruning back vegetation encroaching on the trails. Opportunities include supervised Group Work sessions and training to become an Independent Trail Maintenance Volunteer.
Fight the invasive exotics that threaten native species:
- Weed Warriors — are volunteers who are trained to work independently to remove invasive plants in the MPEA.
- Conservation Stewardship Project – volunteers are encouraged to join in to work with Rec. and Parks staff to remove invasive plants. Volunteers meet monthly March to June and Sept. to November on the fourth Tuesday of the month. Open to anyone over 18 – under 18 needs an adult with them.
Study the diverse flora and fauna communities:
- July Butterfly Counts — part of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) program, volunteers will conduct counts at 4 different parks in the Howard County area. Occurs on the 3rd Saturday in July.
- Frogwatch USA — monitor a section of the MPEA twice monthly from March-July and enter data into the online database.
Habitat management projects:
- Nest Box Monitoring — volunteers monitor and maintain the 22 nest boxes in MPEA’s grassland restoration plots and enter collected data into the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Nestwatch online database.