Harriet Tubman State Park opens
CAMBRIDGE — The new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center in Dorchester County opens to the public Saturday, March 11.
The state park and visitor center is located at 4068 Golden Hill Road in Church Creek near Blackwater Na- tional Wildlife Refuge. A private ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held Friday, March 10.
The National Park Service and the Maryland Park Service have teamed up to provide special family-friendly Grand Opening events and activities at the site and a
first look at the new visitor center.
Events on Saturday, March 11, and Sunday, March 12, will include programs with Harriet Tubman Re-enactor Millicent Sparks; Harriet Haikus and Creative Writing Workshops with National Park Service Centennial Poet Laureate Dr. Sonia Sanchez; Historian Tony Cohen of the Menare Foundation leading simulated Underground Railroad journeys around the legacy garden that reveal escape secrets used by Tubman and other freedom seekers.
There will be free shuttles from Cambridge for visitors coming to the site. Free parking and a shuttle system is available at 410 Academy Street. The shuttle will operate from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 11 only. The City of Cambridge is running these free shuttles to the Visitor Center.
Tubman was born in Dorchester County and lived here as a slave until she was nearly 30 years old. She escaped slavery in 1849, yet risked her life to return to the Eastern Shore many times to help others in their journey to freedom. She helped around 70 slaves escape and led them north. Some went as far north as Canada.
In 2013, President Barack Obama established the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Dorchester County, a precursor to National Historical Park designation.
In 2014, Congress passed a bill to create Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Parks.
The state park is about 17 acres and features a 10,000-square foot Leadership in Energy and Environment Design Silver rated visitor center, legacy garden and an open-air pavilion with a stone fireplace.
The visitor center houses the exhibit hall, gift shop, information desk, research library and restrooms. Visitors will begin their experience with an immersive, two to three minute audio-visual theatre feature to show a day in the life of Tubman. Upon exiting the theatre, guests will see a three-dimensional reconstructed scene of a slave auction at the Dorchester County Courthouse.
Then visitors will explore how the landscape of the Choptank River Region shaped Tubman’s early life, and the importance of her faith, family and community. The exhibit also features information about Tubman’s role as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and her work as a freedom fighter, humanitarian, leader and liberator.
Other areas in the main space provide information about her work as a slave, her experience at the Bucktown Village Store, her strong faith in God, and her liberation from slavery. Many of these exhibits will feature touch panels and sound sticks in order to provide additional information and stories.
Moving farther into the center will bring visitors to a more emotive setup designed to give one an idea of what a night rescue on the UGRR might have looked like.
The legacy garden is an open space for interpretation and quiet reflection. It is landscaped with plants that are native to the Eastern Shore, showing vegetation with seasonal interests, in particular spring blooms and strong autumn colors. There is about a one-mile trail that winds through the garden, and offers views of the park and neighboring Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park contains properties in three counties — Dorchester, Talbot and Caroline. The National Park Service has been allowed to acquire seven noncontiguous properties that were historically significant in Tubman’s life.
This park consists of 2,775 acres in Dorchester County, 2,200 in Caroline and 775 in Talbot.
The parcel in Dorchester County contains the home site of Jacob Jackson, a free African-American man who communicated with Tubman’s family members and allowed his house to be used as one of the first safe houses on the Underground Railroad leading out of the Eastern Shore.
Other parcels include the site of what is believed to be Tubman’s birthplace near Madison in Dorchester County, and sites of the Brodess Plantation, where she worked as a young girl, the Cook Plantation, where she worked as a seamstress; and the Poplar Neck plantation, where she escaped slavery in 1849.
For more information about the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center in Dorchester County, visit http://dnr2.mar yland.gov/ publiclands/pages/eastern/ tub man.aspx.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center in Dorchester County opens to the public March 10 on Harriet Tubman Day. The state park is about 17 acres and features a 10,000-square foot visitor center, legacy garden and an open-air pavilion.