CONTACT: 410-887-2503

Willow Grove Farm History

Willow Grove Farm History

In 1993, the 179 acre Willow Grove farm and another 38 acre parcel near Loch Raven Rd were purchased by the State of Maryland from the Robert Merrick estate, ending a plan to develop the valley into residences. The State then leased the land to Baltimore County to be used as a park. Robert and William Merrick had obtained the major portion of it in 1943.

The earliest records of the land ownership in the valley is a suvey of "Fellowship", a tract granted to Luke Raven in 1710, on the north side of "Setter Hill Run", as the Minebank was originally known; and "Venture Not", a tract granted to Samuel Stansbury in 1744. "Fellowship" was resurveyed and enlarged for Abraham Raven in 1755. By 1848, much of the area was in the possession on John Plaskitt who died in 1867 when part of his land went to Michael Bannon, then to Nicholas Burke in 1871, and to Arthur Shanklin in 1876.

Arthur's father John Shanklin had already acquired parts of the valley in this area starting in 1838 from his mother Elizabeth (Bosley) Shanklin. John died in 1883, after which some of this land passed to his son Arthur. It is hard to trace the exact property boundaries from the early days, as many surveys overlapped, some of the deeds do not contain "metes and bounds" descriptions of the land being conveyed, and bits and pieces were conveyed in various ways.

Willow Grove Facilities

The following structures and items of interest are located on the Willow Grove Farm part of the Park.


Located in a 150-year-old renovated farm house on the former Willow Grove Farm, our Nature Education Center offers plenty of opportunities for visitors to learn about nature, farming, local history, and conservation awareness. Come enjoy our collection of native turtles, frogs, toads, and snakes. Come explore the hands-on exhibits in our Discovery Room. Come learn while you play!

In 2013 and again in 2017, the Nature Education Center was recognized as a Green Center by the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education. This was awarded based on the excellence of our environmental programs.

In spring and fall, school groups can experience naturalist-led field trips related to Spring Planting, Fall Harvest, Sensing Nature, Discovering Insects, Habitat Explorers, and Stream Strollers – just to name a few!

In a variety of weekend programs, children, families, and adults can enjoy a wide range of natural and cultural history topics – from birds to trees to butterflies to rocks to rhubarb to history to creating habitats with native plants.

Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Sunday: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
GPS: 39.417400,-76.547647


Naturalist Interns and other volunteers are extremely important to the work of Willow Grove Nature Center and perform a variety of duties including helping to lead educational programs, working to develop new programs and educational materials, greeting visitors, maintaining park trails, caring for the live animal collection, and helping to develop new exhibits. Naturalist Interns are expected to work for the Spring, Summer, or Fall season and generally work at least eight to ten hours each week, usually during the week. The availability to work mornings is preferred.


To apply for an internship at Cromwell Valley Park Willow Grove Nature Center, send this application form, a cover letter, and a resume to Cromwell Valley Park, 2002 Cromwell Bridge Road, Parkville, MD 21234. Attn: Naturalist Internship. For more information about the Nature Center, or our internship program, contact 410-887-3014.


Our half-acre Children’s Garden is next to the Willow Grove Nature Education Center. This beautiful garden supports our educational, interpretive, and recreational programs relating to agriculture and nature. We took a half-acre of fertile Baltimore County parkland; added a pond, a shed, and compost bins; built the essential deer-proof fence; and mixed in hundreds of hours of volunteer time. What do we have? A beautiful and bountiful focal point for learning and recreation. School groups come to plant in the spring and to harvest in the fall. Families come all season long to learn how to grow vegetables and how to support native wildlife with plants. Summer camp kids monitor the butterflies and birds attracted to the native plant beds and the frogs that live in the pond. Casual visitors learn from and enjoy the interpretive signs, gorgeous views, and the peaceful atmosphere of the garden. Come see for yourself!


The Children’s Garden offers a variety of volunteer opportunities for teens and adults. To volunteer in the Children’s Garden, contact Anne Wedgeworth at [email protected] or call her at 410-887-3014.


Have you seen our new Nature Discovery Zone, nestled in the woods between the Willow Grove Barn and the outdoor classroom? The Nature Discovery Zone provides a hidden nook in the woods where kids can explore the natural world and everyone can experience the joys of playing in nature in a safe and easily accessible location. They can “cook” in the mud pie kitchen, dig for fossils in the sandbox, build a fort, and relax in a teepee.

The Nature Discovery Zone features stumps for jumping, logs for balancing, a sandbox for digging, and forts for hiding. Visitors can let their creativity run wild on stage as they put on puppets shows and performances. Afterwards they can make a meal in the mud pie kitchen to take back to the teepee for lunch. Stop by today!



Just beyond the Nature Discovery Zone, you’ll find the outdoor classroom where lectures can be held in a natural setting. There are benches, a podium, and a fire circle. This provides a secluded spot, completely surrounded by nature. Go there yourself sometime and just sit and contemplate life!