For some months there has been an intensified effort to get Maryland's people more involved in the state's forests and parks -- not just the so-called showcases, but all the facilities, from Savage River State Forest to Assateague State Park.
In the past couple of months we have written largely about the effort to recruit volunteers to help with staffing at parks closed because of budget problems. But there is a new program being developed that is designed to give virtually anyone interested as large a helping of the outdoors as he or she can handle.
It is called Outdoors Adventures and it is being coordinated by Sgt. Gary Adelhardt of the Maryland State Forest and Park Service.
"We're going to be doing outdoors adventures all around the state," Adelhardt said. "We want to get people out and doing things that they haven't experienced, enjoying the environment, learning something about it and possibly to realize that some of the things that people do and don't think about can have an effect [on the environment]."
For example, if you have been on virtually any river in Maryland, you have come across some area of trash deposits, effluent discharge or an area of erosion caused by poor land management. Probably the sight is easily remembered.
"When you are home taking a shower or something, you don't really think about it," Adelhardt said. "But when you see soap suds coming out down a river, you begin to think about how much water you are using and how you are using it."
One of the greatest problems with managing a natural resource, almost any forest or park manager will tell you, is a lack of understanding of the cause and effect relationship within a woodland, marsh or seashore.
"With most people, it is an emotional thing," Adelhardt said. "For example, they think, 'They are tearing down the forest.'
"Well, there is a management plan for going in and taking down timber -- for wildlife, for genetically better stands of timber, that sort of thing. We need people to understand that rather than gut reacting to things that we do."
Adelhardt believes that the Outdoors Adventures program may go a long way toward teaching the general public about that cause and effect relationship -- and offer some fun as well.
At the early stage of this program, which has been developed over the past six weeks, four canoe adventures have been scheduled out of Green Ridge State Forest on the Potomac River, at least one and perhaps as many as four backpacking trips will be scheduled at Savage River State Forest, a four-day bike trip has been scheduled along the C&O Canal, and there are plans for adventures at Gunpowder Falls and Sandy Point state parks.
"When we started putting this together, it became apparent to us that we had been doing a lot of these things all along, but the only people who knew about them were locals," Adelhardt said.
"The idea is that we want to get the major metro areas aware that we do these things -- and doing some of them in their own backyards."
Gunpowder Falls State Park is in Baltimore's back yard, and MSFPS staff recently finished white-water rescue training in preparation for a number of canoe trips that will be scheduled for the Gunpowder River this spring and summer.
Biking trips are to be scheduled for Gunpowder Falls State Park.
Adelhardt also hopes to be able to put together some sailing adventures out of Sandy Point State Park near the Bay Bridge.
The following is a partial listing of activities being planned for Maryland parks and forests this spring and summer.
Potomac River Paddle A two-day trip on the Potomac with an overnight near Paw Paw, Dates: June 1-2; June 15-16; Sept. 7-8; Oct. 5-6.
Registration information: $60 per person covers all meals and transportation. To register, call (301) 777-2345.
C&O Canal Bike Through History A four-day bicycle trip from Cumberland to White's Ferry with overnights at Green Ridge State Forest and Fort Frederick State Park.
Dates: May 17-20.
Registration information: $50 per person covers snacks, meals, supplies and transportation. Some funds may be needed for purchases along the way. To register, call (301) 777-2345.