The Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chapter was chartered on October 23, 1935 by the Izaak Walton League of America. The initial membership of 15 has grown to over 1,000, making it one of the largest and most active of the IWLA's 300 plus chapters. Some of the current members of the B-CC Chapter are the third generation of their families to belong.
Lacking funds and formal facilities, the monthly chapter meetings in the early years were held in individual homes, borrowed meeting rooms, restaurants. etc. in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Maryland area. Finally in 1949 the chapter was able to take advantage of a golden opportunity and purchase a 366-acre farm south of Poolesville, Maryland, near the Potomac River and about 20 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. It was at that time a badly depleted farm with limited access and little value for any other purpose. The chapter's intent in purchasing it is expressed in the following resolution passed by the chapter soon afterwards:
Whereas, natural resources made this a leading, powerful and a free Nation, therefore the conservation of these rapidly diminishing resources is our greatest national problem, and
Whereas, The Izaak Walton League of America, Inc., a non profit corporation, was organized to defend the soil, woods, waters, and wild life by instructing and educating the public, and
Whereas, The Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chapter of The Izaak Walton League of America, Inc., in order to better carry forward our motive has purchased a large parcel of poor, deserted, semi-arid, sub-marginal land on the Sycamore Landing Road, three miles south of Poolesville, Md, which it intends to develop as a model farm using methods as advocated by the State as best suited to raise the water level, increase the fertility of the soil so that crops may be grown full of vitality and wildlife may again become abundant, and
Whereas, it is planned to construct ponds so as to have water all year around, to rotate crops, to plant in contours and strips, to grow cover and food for wildlife, to protect dens and nesting areas from predators, to cut all full grown timber, thin out and protect the woodlands especially from fire; to cover all exposed land so as to prevent erosion and return to the land a little more than is taken from it, and
Whereas, it is the intention of this Chapter to erect a large guest house on the property and to invite groups of school children, clubs and the public at large to see our "movies", to swim and fish in our ponds, to join in conducted tours over the estate so as to observe at first hand the results of a united endeavor to keep America great and to save for the future generations the heritage that should be theirs, and
Whereas, access to this place is by a county road which is poor and at times impassable
Now, Therefore Be It Resolved by The Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chapter of The Izaak Walton League of America, Inc., that the county be requested to co-operate with this worthwhile undertaking by placing the roads adjoining this farm in good condition as soon as practical and that copies of this resolution be sent to The Montgomery County Council and the Montgomery County Roads Department
Royal H. Carlock, President
Mailed July 1, 1949
By 1950 with the tireless efforts of many of its dedicated members the chapter had completed the erection of a fine rustic meeting and activity house on the highest point of the farm with an excellent view of the surrounding countryside. This chapter house was destroyed by Arson in 1988, and the members contracted for a new and larger chapter house which was dedicated to the original charter members in 1990. The monthly Chapter meetings and other functions are held in this building. The farm at that time, comprising about 100 acres of woodland and 266 acres of open fields, is basically operated as a conservation area.
Over the years, in addition to the chapter house, the members have constructed many other buildings and facilities including trap and skeet ranges, rifle and pistol ranges, an archery range, two fishing ponds, camping grounds with outdoor toilet facilities, picnic grounds and outdoor cooking facility, a nature trail, tree plantations and game food areas, farm buildings and restoration of a Civil War era log farm house. Various activities are held year round associated with and using the many facilities on the farm, the most important being the annual youth achievement and conservation days held respectively in the spring and fall for 500-700 local boy scouts, girl scouts and members of similar youth groups. Chapter spokesmen testify at all government levels regarding conservation and outdoor recreation. Click here to see "Who We Are"
Financial support is derived from annual membership dues, initiation fees upon joining the chapter, shooting activities on the trap & skeet, rifle & pistol and archery ranges as well as the sale of Christmas trees raised on the farm and from occasional special fund raising activities.
Next to the purchase of the original farm, the most ambitious undertaking in the chapter's 64 years was the purchase in late 1997 of the 127-acre West Woods tract adjoining the original 366 acres. This property was purchased with a grant from the Maryland Environmental Trust in return for placing a Conservation Easement on the property. The Maryland Environmental Trust and the Potomac Conservancy are co-holders of that Conservation Easement. In 2000 the Chapter placed a Conservation Easement on the original 366-acre farm in return for funds paid by the Montgomery County Rural Legacy Foundation. The B-CC IWLA Legacy Foundation was created to manage these funds independent from the Chapter, and to provide "no-interest" loans to the Chapter solely for the purchase of additional lands.
In 2006 an additional 30-acres dubbed West Woods II was purchased with a "no interest" loan from the B-CC IWLA Legacy Foundation. This tract is significant for many reasons. Approximately one-fourth of it is shale barrens, a unique habitat in which more than a dozen rare and endangered plant species have been identified. It provides food and cover for wild turkeys, deer and other wildlife. It is contiguous to the 1960-acre McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area, which in turn adjoins Seneca State Park, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park and the Potomac River, providing a corridor for wildlife movement over a large area. At the time of B-CC's purchase, this land was in the process of being platted for development. Most recently, in November 2010 B-CC members voted to purchase an additional 50-acres bordering the north-east property boundary, and another adjacent 50-acres in September 2012. With the purchase of these "North East Woods" B-CC members have preserved a total of 623-acres of woodlands, agricultural fields and open space in a region with some of the most intense development pressure in the U. S.
A part of this stewardship is the recognition that we are not the first occupants of this land, and that what came before must be preserved. From pre-Colombian times, there are three Paleo-lndian sites documented by the Maryland Historic Trust, near the edge of the original property along Izaak Walton Way and extending toward the drainage of Horsepen Branch; also the Beshers quarry (quartzite) on the West Woods tract. From the time of European settlement, there is a log cabin on the property, the "Willard Log House", that prior to its restoration was listed in the Montgomery County Locational Atlas of Historic Sites ( Click here to see historic-farm-cabin).
So, who was Izaak Walton?
The Izaak Walton Cottage Chapter is the first to be established in England, Izaak Walton's birthplace. This new chapter was established with the help and support of the Bethesda Chevy Chase Chapter. To learn more, please visit the Cottage Chapter's web site at www.Izaakwaltoncottage.co.uk.