By Lily Fountain
I have lived here since 1977, and I thought I had seen every nook and cranny in College Park. But recently I discovered a little patch of forest known as Guilford Woods, south of campus along Guilford Drive, at the end where it connects with Mowatt Lane. Even in winter, this peaceful and undeveloped area is replete with holly trees, pileated woodpeckers, a bubbling brook, wetlands, hillocks and meadows.
A stream, Guilford Run, flows through this forest. Small rivulets converge to form the run, which is part of the Anacostia Watershed. A small wooden footbridge spans the stream, connecting the neighborhood to the south with the commercial district and campus to the north. And from the footbridge, you can see footprints of wildlife along the creek. A new species of aquatic worm has been found in the stream, which is home to a variety of animals. There are also wonderful wetlands and meadows scattered throughout Guilford Woods, and all of these habitats support a rich diversity of wildlife, including deer, raccoons, and the strikingly large pileated woodpecker, with its distinctive black-and-white markings and bright red crest.
Guilford Wood is also home to a wide variety of trees, many of which are 150 years old or more — such contiguous forest canopy is rare in College Park. On the winter forest floor, the fallen leaves from many species speak to this diversity. I have seen tulip poplars (some of the biggest trees in the woods), American beech, white oaks, river birch, American holly, sycamores, pawpaw, and more. Right now, in winter, hollies are especially noticeable for their bright green leaves and red berries.
People flock to Guilford Woods, too — people in search of relaxation or solace, those seeking to enjoy and learn about plants and animals, people appreciating a beautiful commute to or from campus — residents, students and faculty alike, all enjoying the embrace of Guilford Woods.
Guilford Woods brings many other benefits to our town, too. The trees and soil generously soak up stormwater that would otherwise exacerbate flooding. The 15-acre tree canopy helps protect local neighborhoods and the campus from heat island effects of climate change and sequesters carbon to prevent further damage to our environment. The deep roots of the trees also prevent erosion.
Each time I walk through Guilford Woods, I feel renewed, connected to the circle of life beyond my computer screen. If you want to learn more about this tiny forest that’s so accessible to College Park residents, you can visit https://friendsofguilfordwoods.weebly.com/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to see you at Guilford Woods as we celebrate this College Park gem!
Meter parking to explore the woods is available across the street at the Mowatt Lane Garage.