Family Fun Day At Patapsco Valley State Park!
All the earthly elements came together on Sunday, April 24 to provide a picture-perfect opportunity to promote volunteer opportunities throughout Patapsco Valley State Park in and around Baltimore, Maryland. With the previous day’s “April showers” a distant memory, Sunday dawned brilliant and clear, with a deep blue sky and mild temperatures that reached only about 72˚ F by mid-afternoon. Indeed, the National Weather Service reported that the nearest puffy cumulus cloud of any size was in State College, Pennsylvania, about 165 miles to the north.
Family Fun Day was originally organized to provide the public with a day of free access to the Avalon area of Patapsco and a chance to get an up-close look at the multitude of opportunities for recreation and volunteerism throughout one of Maryland’s largest urban parks. Extending along thirty two miles of the Patapsco River and encompassing 16,043 acres and eight developed recreational areas, leisure-time opportunities abound across Patapsco’s locations, including hiking, fishing, camping, canoeing, horseback and mountain bike trails, as well as picnicking for individual families and large groups.
In addition to the park’s many areas which feature covered picnic pavilions with concrete floors and stone fireplaces, paved camping pads with campground hosts, and maintained trails suitable for wheeled and hoofed transportation, there are several wilderness sections where no vehicular, equine or wheeled traffic is allowed. These are called natural environment areas, and the 2000 acres that comprise the Soldiers Delight conserve is just such a place. Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc., the all-volunteer Friends group for the NEA, was eager to be represented in the celebration of all things Patapsco on such a bright, spring day.
Assigned to a long wooden table in the shade of a picnic pavilion at the Avalon area of Patapsco Valley State Park, SDCI board president Laura Van Scoyoc and vice president Lynell Tobler spread out a festive display of books and pamphlets promoting native plants and artifacts representing some of the fascinating aspects of the NEA, including a heavy chromite rock from the Choate mine at Soldiers Delight, site of the world’s first chromium mine, as well as samples of soapstone and serpentine ore. At an adjacent table, the two women arranged a display of invasive plants and encouraged visitors to guess why they were undesirable and should never be purchased or planted in anyone’s yard.
Across the Avalon area’s grassy fields, a myriad of displays entertained and enticed adults and children alike: a representative from the Westminster Astronomy Society allowed people to view the brilliant sun through a filtered solar telescope, while nearby a collection of live raptors, amphibians and reptiles from the Soldiers Delight aviary and visitor center impressed audiences with their majestic elegance. The Friends of PVSP group handed out free ice cream, while members of the Volunteer Mounted Patrol encouraged children to pet their perfectly groomed steeds. Hiking enthusiast Tim Runkles held forth outside a “backpackers' tent” as he described the numerous backpacking opportunities throughout Patapsco Valley State Park, while a master gardener from the Maryland Native Plant Society gave out free samples of native bee balm, mountain mint, aster and beardtongue ready to plant at home. Two long tables were filled with children happily decorating “edible bird houses” with peanut butter and birdseed, while disc golf fans used the wide expanse of lawn to ply their sport, meant to advertise the rustic disc golf course at the McKeldin Area of Patapsco. On the winding road leading to the Family Fun Day activities, a park ranger piloted a tractor which towed a hay-covered wagon full of enthusiastic families who lined up for the rides all afternoon. Longtime PVSP volunteer and talented artist Ed Johnson displayed a fascinating array of historic photographs describing Patapsco Valley State Park’s storied history of park service, while members of Patapsco Heritage Greenway described their group’s dedication to preserving, protecting and interpreting the history and culture of the Patapsco River Valley.
With the weather so delightful, hundreds of families turned out for the three-hour event. Laura and Lynell enjoyed regaling a multitude of visitors to their Soldiers Delight display with valuable information about the state’s most significant biodiversity site on any of Maryland’s state lands. Several visitors wanted more information about volunteer opportunities at Soldiers Delight. It was a great day for our SDCI volunteers and visiting families alike.