Trail Guide Map 1
The hiker-biker path (and stream) travel some 0.7 miles in this section. Just south of the end of Channing Drive near Arcola Elementary School, and only a few feet into the northwest corner of the park is a sizable concrete outlet that is about as close as one can reasonably get to the headwaters of Sligo Creek. Like most urban streams, large portions of it have been confined to storm drains so that the area could be developed, in this case into single family houses beginning in the early 1960s. There is unrestricted parking along Channing and adjacent streets.
(BTW, to get to Wheaton Regional Park, turn your back on the outlet, proceed north on Channing, veer left on Ventura Ave, then go north on Nairn Rd to the terminus of the paved trail into Wheaton Park.)
The hiker-biker trail for Sligo begins off Channing about 150 feet north of the headwaters. Follow it east as it divides the Arcola Park playground from the woods of Sligo Creek Park. Though "second growth" (actually, maybe fourth growth), the woods are pretty impressive. There are lots of Tulip Trees (Lirodendron tulipifera) and oaks that are often a good 80-100 years old. In addition, there are a variety of other deciduous trees including Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica), maples, Black Locust (Robinia pseudo-acadia), and a few old Virginia Pines (Pinus virginiana) scattered about. The FOSC website contains a thorough survey of trees and other plants done by John Parrish and friends in 2003. Take a look at "Plants and Animals / Trees". Full or edited checklists of trees can be printed out.
The understory contains a smattering of American Holly (Ilex opaca), Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), and other shrubs. From a distance, the shrub, the Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia aquifolium) appears like a better-looking holly. It is not related and is in fact, a species naturally found in the Pacific Northwest. Like many non-natives, it was planted as a swell-looking addition to back-yards. Its berries were eaten by birds who unceremoniously deposited the seed in the park. Now these shrubs are providing competition to native shrubs. Why is this bad? Since non-natives did not co-evolve with the native eco-system they don’t fit as well with the needs of native birds, insects, and other animals and plants. The non-natives also often out-compete native plants because they aren’t fed on by native grazers such as insects and deer.
After about 400 yards, the paved trail makes a sharp turn south and heads gradually downhill. The surrounding forest floor on the right becomes a wetland that is home to ferns and skunk cabbage. There are also some very small ponds that provide habitat for amphibians. In Spring, there may be gelatinous masses containing eggs of Eastern American Toads (Bufo americanus), Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum), and Wood Frogs (Rana sylvatica). For more information go to “Plants and Animals/ Habitats” on the FOSC website.
At the bottom of the hill, another paved trail comes in from the left. At the intersection is a sign-map of the complete hiker-biker trail in the Montgomery County section of Sligo Park. If you take this side trail it leads uphill to a playground and eventually by way of neighborhood streets to a recreational complex of Wheaton Regional Park across Arcola Avenue. Before it gets to the playground, the trail passes through a grove of young trees, mostly Red Maples (Acer rubrum). To the east of the grove is a tiny side branch of Sligo Creek. It peters out just shy of Arcola Avenue. Arcola at this point is laid on a ridge that is probably the high point of the watershed, about 450 feet. The ridge divides the Sligo watershed from the Northwest Branch watershed to the east.
The main trail south past the intersection passes more wetlands and moist forest floor under a dense canopy of Tulip Trees, maples, and a variety of other deciduous trees. Near Kemp Mill Shopping Center, FOSC has a handsome “signbox” containing information about the park and our organization, including brochures.
A little north of the sign box, a paved side trail leads west through the park. This side trip goes across a bridge over the creek, and connects with the neighborhood. After traveling right on Ladd Street for a block, on the left is a community project called the "American Elm Park”.
Beginning about 2000, community volunteers led by Kathy Michels and Ed Murtagh restored the triangular parcel. When they started, the ground was so compacted, eroded, and filled with construction debris that very little could grow there. It was an eyesore and of no use for habitat. After removing debris and adding leaf mulch, native plants were put in. It is called American Elm Park because it contains several young Dutch elm disease resistant trees (Ulmus americana). Now the park is attractive and useful for birds and butterflies. A couple of signs explain the restoration of the site and its benefit as habitat and to enhance local water quality. Much more information is available on the FOSC website. To find it go to the electronic version of Map 1 and click on the button for “American Elm Park”.
Also at the sign box, one can see the Kemp Mill Shopping Center. At the junction of the parking lot and Arcola Avenue a new Kemp Mill Urban Park is scheduled to be be completed in Spring of 2017. It will feature three ponds with plantings of native plants.
Back on the main trail in the park, traveling downstream past the intersection with the side trail, one can see an earthen dam through the trees on the right. It creates the University Boulevard Stormwater management ponds. In addition to managing excess flow during storms, the two adjacent ponds provide habitat for reptiles, amphibians, birds, and other critters. For more information on the FOSC website click the button on Map 1 for Stormwater ponds.
Across the dam, about 50 yards southwest up the slope, one can find the ruins of the "Pleasure Club of Fiumedinise". The club was built in 1923 by men with connections to the Sicilian village of Fiumedinise. For about 40 years it was a place where the guys could come to reminisce, play bocce ball, and sample home-made wine and beer. The Map 1 button, "Fiumedinise", links to more about this piece of history. While on this side of the creek, during the growing season, you should admire what seems to be the only stand of Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnomamomea) in Sligo Park.
As you have traveled through this portion of the Sligo Creek Park, we hope you remembered to bring your binoculars and a bird guide. In addition to more familiar backyard species, there are herons, hawks and other raptors, several woodpecker species including Pileated, and numerous others not likely to be seen from your backyard window. Thanks to the variety of habitats, many of the 68 species that breed in the park can be found here. In addition, there are many more species seen during Spring and Fall migration. Find out more by looking under “Plants and Animals” as well as “Sightings” at our website. In A Birder’s Guide to Montgomery County, Maryland, the Montgomery County Chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society lists this part of the park as a "Little Treasure".