ROCKS STATE Park is a splendid 855 acres in Harford County blessed with massive boulders, rock cliffs, splendid views, scenic trails, Deer Creek and the largest and most active group of volunteers, 25 in all, of any Maryland park.
Ranger Peggy Eppig has established park programs for adults and children. Two of her valued volunteers are Faith Cross from Street and Karl Sumwalt from Bel Air.
Cross says she discovered the park last summer and now wishes she had had the nature experiences her children are getting there. ''We spend as much time in the park as we can, even if it is walking and picking up trash.
''My children were never litterbugs, but now they pick up everything. In park programs, they've learned so much about ecology and history of the park and the area. Humane treatment of all creatures is foremost for them now. They love snakes and we couldn't think of killing a spider in the house. We take them outside,'' she says.
Sumwalt is a civil engineer for Harford County and is at the park most Saturdays, "doing whatever is necessary.'' He was very busy in October with a cleanup necessary after a severe wind ''much like a tornado, whipped through a section of the park at the same time a tornado hit the Reisterstown area," he says. "In the park, the wind toppled trees onto the roof of the Rock Ridge pavilion and messed up this one area just a few days before the Pumpkin Appreciation Celebration when the park would be full of visitors. We really worked,'' he adds. Sumwalt goes to the park every week for another reason as well. ''I'm a rock climber and you'll find me climbing here in my spare time,'' he says. His wife Barbara helps on special occasions.
Visitors go tubing, swimming and fishing in Deer Creek and use the 150 large picnic sites with playgrounds and restrooms and two pavilions for parties. The rangers and volunteers offer guided trail walks and educational programs on trees, woods, history, ecology and more. Annual programs such as the Easter sunrise service, Pumpkin Appreciation Days and a Smokey Bear celebration for which volunteers cook cakes for the visitors are all possible because of volunteers.
Visitors will discover that summer isn't the only time to gather there. When it snows, folks head for the Hills Grove Pavilion where, from 10 a.m. to park closing at dusk, they can sled and cook marshmallows and make hot cocoa on an open fire. It is free.
Volunteers are wanted for almost every area of the park as trail crews and for upkeep, rebuilding and caring for the reptile exhibit in the main building. They also help the rangers with projects presented in schools, educational classes.
Rocks Park welcomes visitors from 10 a.m. to sunset from October through March and from 9 a.m. to sunset, April through September. It is a part of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' Forest Park and Wildlife Service. The park is at 3318 Rocks Chrome Hill Road, Jarrettsville, 21084. Pets are prohibited, and alcoholic beverages are permitted only at picnic tables.
If you will volunteer to help the rangers at Rocks State Park, call Ranger Peggy Eppig at 557-7994.