Martha and Nora Clark own and operate a 540-acre farm in Howard County, Maryland, where their family has farmed since 1797. Like most American farms, the Clark's struggle to keep costs down as they face tough competition overseas. When the housing bubble snowballed through the early 2000s, developers began buying farmland across the state of Maryland. The Clarks, however, did not sell their land, even when neighboring farms were cashing in on the boom. Instead, they continued farming and, in an unusual attempt to generate more revenue, opened a petting zoo.
The petting zoo had a rough start but eventually prospered and the Clarks began running other events, including pond tours, lessons on ecology, hikes and hands-on animal care. They also opened fall hay rides and pumpkin patches, as well as holiday events throughout the winter season. But perhaps the most interesting addition to the farm was also the strangest: In 2005, the Clarks began acquiring many of the storybook buildings and figures from Maryland’s once-famous roadside amusement park, the Enchanted Forest.
The owner of the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center, Kimco Realty Corporation, graciously agreed to give Clark’s Elioak Farm the decrepit structures as long as they made every effort to remove all scraps from the woods behind the strip mall. They did, but at a cost. Not only did they have to structurally repair and repaint all of the items, but a few of the pieces, including the old woman's shoe and the three bear's house, were so wide and heavy that they had to be cut in half to be transported to the farm.
The Enchanted Forest Pine Tree Maze at Clark’s Elioak Farm now hosts dozens of structures that were salvaged from the primitive amusement park. These include mother goose and her gosling, the six mice that pulled Cinderella's pumpkin coach, papa bear, the giant mushrooms, two enormous lollipops, a number of gingerbread men, and many more. Visitors of all ages are encouraged to follow the twists and turns through the forest of pines to discover all of these colorful storybook figures.
The maze may seem mundane compared to most high-tech parks today, but adults who remember The Enchanted Forest of year’s past will experience something far too familiar. The Clarks have done a lot to preserve pieces of a park that predates Disneyland, which would have otherwise been forgotten, forever decaying behind a simple strip mall on an ordinary Maryland highway.