Whether you are active in such sports as baseball, basketball and soccer; like to fish, ride a horse or bicycle; like to ski, shoot, enjoy crafts, travel or just walk along a quiet path, the Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks offers activities for all residents.
The supervisory and support arm of the county's park system, the department oversees some 21 recreational areas and 14 community-based recreation councils. To be able to offer more programs, the department maintains a partnership with the Carroll County public schools to use school gymnasiums and fields.
The department also offers adult classes ranging from arts and crafts and gardening to health and wellness, as well as youth classes and bus trips throughout the year.
Along with the rest of county government, the Department of Recreation and Parks is struggling to keep up with a growing population and its demand for services. Although the county has 833-acre Piney Run Park in southeast Carroll; Hashawha Environmental Center and Bear Branch Nature Center in the central county; and scattered parks in most other areas, officials say there is still a need for more facilities of all kinds.
"We have a tremendous need for recreational facilities in South Carroll, followed by North Carroll and Westminster," said Jeff R. Degitz, bureau chief for the department. "There's a lot of kids wanting to play sports, but until more facilities are built, we're playing catch-up."
Outside of Piney Run and Hashawha, the county's parks range from the undeveloped Gillis Falls and Union Mills reservoir sites that offer only trails and fishing, to the combined Freedom Park with assorted athletic fields, tennis and volleyball courts, restrooms, picnicking, pavilions and trails.
The county also has the 76-acre Carroll County Sports Complex that is home to athletic fields, where Charles Carroll Recreation Council plays youth ball games, adult softball leagues play, and weekend invitational tournaments bring teams from all over the country.
For hunters and those who enjoy shooting, there is the Hap Baker Firearms Facility, near Northern Landfill off Route 140 outside Westminster.
"It's a good location that's worked out well, and it's so popular that we're looking at ways to expand it with a pistol range," Degitz said.
The county also offers hiking, biking and equestrian riding trails, as well as skiing and skating areas. Brochures are available.
In recent years, the county has purchased several sites for park facilities and has worked on developing existing properties.
The department recently opened Cape Horn Park near Manchester, which includes five athletic fields and a walking trail.
"That's going to help meet some growth needs," Degitz said, "but we're losing facilities at North Carroll Middle School while it's being renovated, and that will have an effect on our programs."
The county also purchased the 100-acre Leister property in Hampstead, which will be turned into a park with picnic areas, walking trails and other uses. Those plans are three to five years away from becoming reality, Degitz said.
In South Carroll, the county has purchased the 120-acre Krimgold property on Woodbine Road near Buckhorn Road. That park, in the planning stages, will feature three ponds already on the property, ball fields and walking trails.
On Gillis Falls Road, design work is being done for a park that will be predominantly walking and equestrian trails, both long and short, with loops, some paved and some gravel.
Many activities are run by the recreation councils - 11 community councils, and three specialty areas (Seniors in Action, Equestrian Council and the Therapeutic Recreation Council).
The recreation councils have more than 10,000 volunteers who give hundreds of thousands of hours in running athletic competitions, sports camps, a variety of youth and adult classes, health and wellness programs, and other events.
"The department gets input from the rec councils on their needs, and based on that and what we see, we try to put together a capital improvement program to meet those needs," Degitz said.
County municipalities also have park areas that the community recreation councils use. Westminster has several parks and an active recreation department that offers programs ranging from sports to concerts.
Several years ago, the county department took over the public schools' adult, or alternative, education programs. The 120 programs now offered include adult and youth classes, sports, camps and regional bus trips.
Carroll residents also have several other recreational sites they can use for various activities.
Liberty Reservoir is on the county's eastern border and offers hiking and fishing.
Morgan Run Natural Environment Area, northwest of Eldersburg, is excellent for trout fishing, horseback riding, hiking and bird-watching. It is maintained by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Parts of Patapsco Valley State Park also abut Carroll County's southeast corner near Marriottsville, offering horseback riding, hiking, bird-watching and other activities.
Besides the public facilities, there are a number of private recreational opportunities available, including bowling lanes, golf clubs, sports facilities and park areas.
The office of the Department of Recreation and Parks is in Room 100 of the County Office Building at 225 N. Center St. in Westminster.