Bowie’s Saddlebrook West is a 12-year-old neighborhood that plays up the area’s 100-year-old equine history.
The community sits adjacent to the Bowie Training Center, where thoroughbreds are developed into racehorses. Bowie, the site of the Bel Air Stud breeding farm, plays an important role in Maryland racing history. The racetrack opened in 1914 and quickly became an important attraction in the area.
A Daily Racing Form article reported on the 1919 Thanksgiving race meet: “There was a touch of winter to the racing at Bowie this afternoon . . . the fact that it as the last Saturday of racing in this region for the year, resulted in the usual large half-holiday crowd making the trip to the track.” Eventually, those crowds dropped off, though, and Bowie stopped functioning as a racetrack in 1985.
Today, horses exercise over the one-mile course, and the equine theme gives Saddlebrook West its name. Janice Coffey is a real-estate agent who has lived there since 2002. The rear of her house faces the track. “There is a slight slope in the back of the houses, so you cannot really see the stables,” she said. “But from the top floor of our house we [can] see them racing around the track. Sometimes you can hear the whinny of the horses.”
Coffey’s husband, Bill, worked as a sales manager for Ryan Homes in the Saddlebrook West community when it broke ground in 2000. Ryan was one of three builders to construct the first luxury subdivision in Bowie’s 20715 Zip code, Coffey says. “These builders introduced new models in this community, and in the early 2000s the prices started in the low 200s for a single-family” home.
Today, Saddlebrook West prices are more in the $300,000 to $500,000 range. All 330 houses have brick fronts, with square footage that ranges from around 2,900 to more than 3,500 square feet, according to the neighborhood’s Web site. Amenities include a swimming pool, tennis courts and playgrounds.
It also has several walking trails, including one leading under a bridge to the 10.25-mile Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Trail, named for the electric railway whose right-of-way it follows. William Smith, who has lived in the neighborhood for eight years, cites the WB&A, though it doesn’t actually connect to any of the three cities, as one of the features that make it unique.
Sidni Dechaine is on Saddlebrook West’s board of directors and has lived there since 2009. She chose Bowie because of its location, which is convenient to Washington, Baltimore, Annapolis, Metrorail, the Beltway and Route 50. She and her husband are the second owners of their home.
“We were drawn to Saddlebrook West because we wanted a newer, but settled, community,” she said. “We liked the mature landscaping, the walking trails and the pool and tennis courts. As dog owners, we were thrilled to see all of the people out jogging and walking their dogs.”
A property-management company handles community needs such as pool maintenance and general landscaping. The company also ensures that homes follow the covenants set out by the Community Home Owners Association of Saddlebrook West.
Nature is a key part of the neighborhood, which, unlike many recently built subdivisions, has its own wooded trails. These include tot lots and exercise equipment.
During the 2010 “Snowmaggedon,” Dechaine said, she was “enjoying the falling snow. From my family-room window, I watched a five-point buck with a couple of does gracefully making their way through the tall snow in our backyard,” she said. “Thirty minutes later, I looked out just in time to see a beautiful red fox standing at the top of the incline in our back yard.”
Drawbacks, says Smith, include a lack of nearby public bus service. Stores are not within a reasonable walk, and he notes that some don’t enjoy living near the Berwyn Rod and Gun Club rifle range, with its audible gunfire. Others aren’t particularly enthralled to be near the stables at Bowie Race Track. “Some people [would] prefer a different view from these homes,” Coffey said
For now, the Bowie Training Center remains an important place for Maryland racing. A Bowie-trained horse named Pretension started in this year’s Preakness. (He came in 11th.)
The center’s future, tied to the fate of Maryland racing, is particularly important to the residents of Saddlebrook West. “There is always a lot of speculation about what will happen to the racetrack land once the training camp closes,” Dechaine said. “It would be a shame to lose all of that open, unspoiled space to a strip mall or another subdivision.”
Eliza McGraw is a freelance writer.
ZIP CODE: 20715
BOUNDARIES: The entrances are on Race Track Road, and River Park Road encircles the neighborhood.
SCHOOLS: Rockledge Elementary, Samuel Ogle Middle and Bowie High.
HOME SALES: In the past year, says real estate agent Janice Coffey, seven homes sold, at prices ranging from $374,900 to $495,900. Two houses are currently listed, $379,000 and $435,000. Six houses are under contract, ranging in price from $340,850 to $449,900.
WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: Bowie Training Center; Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Trail; Saddlebrook East Community Park.
WITHIN 15 MINUTES BY CAR: Downtown Bowie, Bowie State MARC station, Bowie State University.
TRANSIT: The closest Metrobus stop is approximately one mile away.