The Edge of the County

Howard County, Maryland is a diverse place. It hosts business and commerce and agriculture. Its population densities range from fairly rural to well-packed suburban. And although on average it is one of the better-off placed in Maryland, rich and middle class and poor alike call it home.

Its land, too, is diverse. Situated on the Piedmont, the hilly plateau between the Atlantic coastal plain and the Appalachian Mountains, the Piedmont (literally “foothills”)  is the remains of several ancient mountain chains, which makes it geologically complex.  For those of us living on the rolling surface, the region can be most beautiful, at least when not overcome by human development.

But sometimes nature and humanity work together. The southern border of Howard County falls along the Patuxent River, which at the midpoint of its course alongside the county flares into Triadelphia Reservoir, created in 1943 by the construction of Brighton Dam. Dam and reservoir are managed by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), an inter-county agency that handles drinking water and wastewater treatment for Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. The reservoir provides drinking water to those jurisdictions, but oddly not to most of Howard County. A small portion of southeastern Howard County is served by WSSC, but most of the eastern half of the county gets its water from Baltimore, while the western half relies on private wells.

WSSC maintains recreational facilities around the reservoir, too. Hiking, picnicking, fishing, boating, horseback riding, and hunting are all available. Only self-powered or battery powered vessels are allowed on the lake, of course, to protect water quality, and permits are required.

Among the recreational facilities on the Triadelphia property is an azalea garden near the dam, featuring over 22,000 azalea bushes sited in a 5 acre hardwood forest. I’ve never been there, and might not be anytime soon. My wife is allergic to the darn things.  But for azalea lovers, it must be quite a place to visit. It’s a collection that probably rivals that of the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.

Unfortunately, the azalea garden is temporarily closed. Brighton Dam is currently undergoing maintenance to ensure its future life. Although structurally sound, it’s over 70 years old.  Most of us need a bit of work by that point in our lives! The collection will presumably open to the public again after the work is complete.

Detective Lieutenant Rick Peller and crew haven’t been sighted in the vicinity of Triadelphia Reservoir so far, but one never knows. In the future, clues to some dastardly crime might just turn up in the surrounding woods. Meanwhile, pay the area a visit yourself if you happen to get down that way.