summer is over, the weather is cool enough for more than a splash in the
pool. Southern Maryland's parks and playgrounds offer fun for the entire
Each of Southern Maryland's counties has abundant public green space,
much of it dedicated to sports fields and picnic pavilions, riding
trails and boat launching facilities.
The best parks have something for everyone: playgrounds and shady areas
for the smallest children; historic treasures to explore with older
kids; quiet hiking trails and slips of shoreline for nature lovers; and
accessible facilities, so the whole family can have fun together.
According to Natalie Veeney Ford, Maryland Department of Natural
Resources Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator, Southern
Maryland's parks and playgrounds "are all accessible, in some form or
fashion. All new projects are built to ADA standards, and we seek public
input to make them user friendly-so they're not just up to code, they
make sense, too." A perfect example of an accessible playground with
adaptive equipment is at La Plata's Laurel Springs Regional Park off
Radio Station Road.
For Rosemary Riccard of Pisgah, Smallwood State Park in Charles County
is the perfect place. She and her husband walk there several times each
week "for the beautiful water views, birding and other nature," she
says. "It's the best prescription for high blood pressure and stress."
Smallwood State Park also includes a recycled tire playground, boating,
camping and picnicking facilities, and, in the summertime, tours of
Smallwood's Retreat plantation house, led by costumed docents.
Several area parks have added facilities for skateboarders and inline
skaters. Nicolet Park in Lexington Park, White Plains Regional Park, and
Dunkirk Park, provide a place for teens to hang out and improve their
skills, away from the dangers of fast-moving street traffic.
Tina Kahn of Prince Frederick praises those parks, even though her own
children are still too young to skateboard. "Dunkirk Park is great and
not too far. I also love Nicolet Park…partly due to the Sprayground (a
small-scale waterpark for the toddler set), but after you get wet there
is a nice playground to dry off."
Keeping playgrounds, water features, skateparks, hiking trails, and
picnic facilities all in close proximity means that you won't spend more
time packing your family into the car than you do enjoying your day out.
Families can try a little bit of everything, at their own pace.
For many locals, nothing beats fossil hunting. Calvert Cliffs State Park
is one of the best-known fossil hunting spots, but according to Tracy
Schwartz, Bayfront Beach and Park, also known as Brownie Beach, is a
great place for families to spend the day wading for treasures.
"I love taking visitors there because it's so easy to find the teeth. In
addition, there are some old Indian trading beads that wash up from a
shipwreck. So, if someone isn't as enthusiastic about the fossils, they
usually enjoy the beads. The water is really shallow and the kids love
how far out they can safely play."
The nearby cliffs also were once home to a tavern, so explorers often
find pieces of Native American pipes and other intriguing bits of tavern
detritus. It's also a great place to meet like-minded, curious beach
"Every time we go, I learn something new because the people there are
always willing to share knowledge and are very friendly. It's one of my
all-time favorite places," says Schwartz.
Did you know Southern Maryland has lakes, too? Wheatley Lake, a 60-acre
freshwater lake at Charlotte Hall's Gilbert Run Park, is a quiet spot to
fish, canoe, pedal boat, or spread out a picnic near the playgrounds. A
150-gallon aquarium and other displays at the park's Nature Center offer
a peek for those who'd rather observe fish than catch them.
Many outdoor facilities curtail their hours of operation for the winter
months, so enjoy the fun while you can!
For more information contact the following: Maryland Department of
www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/ . Charles County:
www.charlescounty.org/pf/pg/parks/facilities.htm. Calvert County:
www.calvertparks.org . St.
And for accessibility information, contact Natalie Veeney Ford at