A Beautiful Day For Volunteering!

Soldiers Delight shows all it has to offer

Silas Welch, 7, of Catonsville, tries his hand at "firefighting" near SDCI's exhibit during Family Fun Day at Avalon
Rain had been forecast for Sunday, April 26, 2015 in Baltimore, but for reasons only Mother Nature understands, the day dawned sunny and cloudless and stayed that way all day.  It was a good thing, too, since one of Patapsco Valley State Park’s major outdoor programs was scheduled for that day.  Noted as PVSP’s prime annual event for showing off its many beautiful, fascinating and nature-filled assets, and for recruiting additional volunteers into the park’s fold to help promote those assets, Patapsco Valley State Park’s Family Fun Day at the Avalon area of the park seemed a success in every way.

Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc., the Friends group for Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area in Owings Mills, hosted a table at the Avalon area of PVSP, where SDCI president Laura Van Scoyoc, vice president Lynell Tobler, and Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage biologist, Paula Becker, held forth all afternoon under brilliant skies, talking to visitors about the importance of conservation efforts ongoing at Soldiers Delight NEA in Owings Mills, introducing passersby to a collection of invasive plants and instructing them on the significant advantages of landscaping with native vegetation.  Children took turns dressing up in genuine firefighting gear so they could shoot water at a painted "fire" to simulate controlled burns which are conducted at Soldiers Delight to reduce infiltration by invasive plant species, while adults received information about the unique serpentine barrens ecosystem which runs through northwestern Baltimore County, where it plays host to a variety of globally rare and endangered wildflowers and butterflies.

The Westminster Astronomy Society, which holds monthly stargazing programs at a nighttime "viewing field" on Soldiers Delight property, also had a booth at the event, where families took turns looking at the sun through a special telescope designed to protect the eyesight while showing off our nearest star’s brilliance and occasional solar flares.

There were also animals on display from Soldiers Delight’s aviary, where rehabilitated, non-releasable raptors and other animals are housed. As a barred owl and red-tailed hawk perched on branches in their exhibit, visitors watched as a naturalist let a giant black rat snake wind itself around her arms and neck.  Brave children were even allowed to pet the snake!

Elsewhere, Patapsco Valley State Park manager Rob Dyke’s son, Connor, led a program teaching children how to create "edible birdhouses" covered in peanut butter and birdseed. The Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park handed out complimentary ice cream sandwiches.  Children and adults tried their hand at disc golf, an athletic activity which can be enjoyed on a disc golf course set up at PVSP’s McKeldin area. 

In another spot, Ron and Carol Bungay, longtime Patapsco Valley State park advocates, dispensed seasoned advice about backpacking and displayed various backpacking equipment.  Nearby, Howard Quinn and his friends, all local musicians, led campfire songs.

Members of the park’s mounted patrol displayed their favored modes of transportation and the horses proved to a very popular attraction.  Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE), a group which provided more than 3000 volunteer hours working on trails throughout the park system in 2014, presented bicycle demonstrations to the delight of many.  And the ever-popular hayride, led by park ranger Andy Rinta aboard a John Deere tractor pulling a large, straw-filled wagon, was packed from the beginning of the event to the very end.  Under brilliant skies and a gentle breeze, a good time was had by all.

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