The Campaign to Save
Crystal Spring Forest
A Truly Special Place
At 89 acres, Crystal Spring Forest is the largest unprotected Primary Forest in Annapolis. Located on Crystal Spring Farm Rd. on an undeveloped 111-acre parcel of land known as the Katherine Property, Crystal Spring Forest is biodiversity hotspot inside the city limits. Some 221 species of birds have been recorded there, the eighth highest total in Anne Arundel County, putting it on part with places like Patuxent Research Refuge, Greenbury Point Preserve, and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC).
The incredible forest here provides countless ecosystem benefits and services for the Annapolis Neck Peninsula. It stores tens of thousands of tons of carbon, making it one of the most important carbon sinks on the Annapolis Neck Peninsula. It provides an important natural filtration system from runoff and stormwater from increasingly intense and frequent storms due to climate change. As a result, the forest protects Crab Creek and the South River from sediment and nutrient runoff. The forest also helps keep local neighborhoods cooler in summer, acting as an important buffer to the urban heat island effect that occurs when areas are paved over. And it provides critical nesting habitat for many bird species of Greatest Conservation Need (GCN), a designation given by the Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR). Birds like Ovenbird, Wood Thrush, Acadian Flycatcher, Scarlet Tanager, and American Redstart have bred in the forest in recent years, and all of them are declining in our region due to habitat loss.
Crystal Spring Farm is more than just the forest, though. What makes this site truly unique is the diverse mosaic of habitats that include grassland, vernal pool, wet meadow, and shrub land. These habitats provide act as a stopping ground for a variety of wintering and migratory species like Glossy Ibis, Gadwall, and Teal. American Woodcock, which are now rare in Anne Arundel county, also winter in the old fields near the forest edge.
Crystal Spring Forest has long been under threat from proposed development, but today the threat has never been greater. In December 2021, the city of Annapolis Planning Commission began public hearings on a proposed development project with a 36.2-acre footprint that would wipe out a significant portion of the Priority Forest and replace the grasslands and wet meadows with a tree plantation. The impacts to the wildlife habitats there would be irreversible, and the many ecological services that the forest provides would also be severely diminished. The development project consists of a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) that will include 302 independent housing units, a 48-suite healthcare center, chapel, multi-purpose building, and fitness center. Under the name “The Village at Providence Point (TVPP),” the developers are proposing to cut down over 27 acres of the largest Priority Forest, including 75 “significant trees” that are greater than 2-feet in diameter. They also plan to create 15.25 acres of impervious surface and a new road, Skippers Lane, that would cut through the forest, parallel to Forest Drive, all the way from South Cherry Grove Ave. to Spa Rd.
Since 2012, Crab Creek Conservancy and its predecessor organization, the Friends of Crystal Spring Forest, have been fighting the development threats to this extraordinary place. Our team has provided written and oral testimony and technical analysis on the proposal, outlining its many weaknesses and anticipated impacts to the environment. We have been leveraging our base of support throughout the community and the broader environmental community to let city officials know that this proposal is the wrong project for this site. Crab Creek Conservancy believes that this site is too environmentally sensitive and ecologically valuable to be developed, and that it is much more suitable as protected open space and conservation land.
SPRING 2022 UPDATE: In February 2022, the city of Annapolis Planning Commission concluded a series of five public hearings on the Village at Providence Point development project, voting to approve it on February 17. Despite 30 citizens and interested parties testifying passionately against this environmental atrocity, both orally and in writing, the Commissioners’ vote was 5-0 with 2 abstentions. On March 31, 2022, the Commission voted 5-0 again to finalize the decision and its findings, along with special conditions for the developers’ permit. This action has kicked off a 30-day period in which interested parties are able to petition the Anne Arundel Court of Appeals for judicial review.
The preliminary Forest Conservation Plan (FCP) hearing was held on November 10, 2021 by the Dept. of Planning and Zoning (P & Z). The project now awaits a grading permit from Planning and Zoning, which would finalize the FCP and would clear the last major hurdle needed to allow forest clearing to begin.
Crab Creek Conservancy has a plan to stop this atrocity. As a watershed organization whose mission would be directly affected, we have filed for judicial review of the permit decision. We call upon all our friends and neighbors who care about clean water, forest habitat, and climate change to help us win this battle. Text “savetheforest” to 44-321 to learn more about how you can help, or click on the Donate button above.