The Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks, in conjunction with an all-volunteer advisory board, oversees numerous park areas and 14 recreation councils that offer opportunities for all residents.
From softball, baseball, soccer and football, to firearm shooting, crafts, travel, fishing, walking or horseback riding, there's something nearby for everyone.
The department also offers bus trips, youth and family programs and classes for all ages in a variety of subjects, ranging from arts and crafts and hobbies to health and fitness and therapeutic recreation.
Piney Run Park and Hashawha Environment Center, with Bear Branch Nature Center, are the park system's crown jewels.
Piney Run is an 833-acre park with a 300-acre manmade lake and nature center that offers boating facilities, playgrounds, walking paths and a wide range of nature activities for all ages.
Hashawha is home to the Carroll County Public School System's Outdoor School that every sixth-grader attends for one week of the school year. The center is not open to the public, but the grounds are available for hiking around the 300-acre property. A small lake provides fishing.
Bear Branch Nature Center offers nature programs for all ages. The Westminster Astronomical Society uses the center's planetarium to hold monthly star shows.
The county department operates the 76-acre Carroll County Sports Complex. Its athletic fields attract players from all over the country for softball and baseball tournaments, as well as local recreation council members.
The eight incorporated towns have recreational facilities that range from walking paths to larger parks with opportunities for sports and relaxation.
In addition, the county's southeastern borders are flanked by Liberty Reservoir and parts of Patapsco Valley State Park that offer fishing, hiking, horseback riding and bird-watching.
Morgan Run Natural Environment Area, northwest of Eldersburg and operated by the state Department of Natural Resources, is also available for nature activities.
The county is home to about a dozen private and public golf courses or ranges, the privately owned Cascade Lake in Hampstead and three bowling lanes (Taneytown, Greenmount and Mount Airy).
The recreation department encourages residents to visit its Web site at www.carr.org/recreation for specific information on county sites and activities.
"You can get just about anything off the Web site -- directions, how to rent a pavilion, you name it, it's in there," said Jeff R. Degitz, the department's bureau chief.
Here is a list of county-owned and operated park and recreation areas in Carroll, with available facilities and activities.
For information on sites without a direct telephone number, call the Department of Recreation and Parks at 410-386-2103.
Bennett Cerf Park: Off Route 27 at Bennett Cerf Drive. Fishing, pavilions, restrooms, tennis courts, picnic area, baseball and softball fields, concessions and pond.
Cape Horn Park: Route 30 and Cape Horn Road, Greenmount. Athletic fields, multiuse trails, cross-country skiing, ice skating.
Carroll County Equestrian Center: Grimville Road, off Flag Marsh Road, near Woodbine. Admission fee. Barns, riding rings, public-use electricity, grills, concessions, multiuse trails, cross-country skiing.
Carroll County Sports Complex: 2225 Littlestown Pike, Westminster. 410-857-4832. Admission fee. A 76-acre-complex with concession building, pavilions, restrooms, picnic area, tot lot, baseball and softball fields, football and soccer fields.
Deer Park: Deer Park Road off Route 32, near Gamber. Basketball, fishing, pavilions, restrooms, tennis courts, picnic area, tot lot, baseball and softball fields, football and soccer fields, concession building, hiking trails, pond, cross-country skiing.
Freedom Park: 30 Raincliffe Road, off Route 32, Sykesville. 90 acres. Pavilions, restrooms, picnic area, tot lot, baseball and softball fields, football and soccer fields, grills, concession building, multiuse trails, cross-country skiing, primitive camping.
Gillis Falls Reservoir: Gillis Falls Road, near Mount Airy. Undeveloped, fishing, multiuse trails, cross-country skiing.
Hap Baker Firearms Facility: Off Route 140, near Northern Landfill north of Reese Road. Admission fee. Short- and long-distance shooting, pistol range.
Hashawha Environmental Center and Bear Branch Nature Center: 300 John Owings Road, north of Westminster, off Route 97 (Littlestown Pike). 410-848- 2517 (nature center), 410-848- 9040 (Hashawha). 300 acres. Hashawha's trails are open to the public with parking at the nature center or near the 1-acre pond. The nature center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday year-round.
Hodges Park: Hodges Road in Eldersburg, off Bartholow Road. Restrooms, baseball and softball fields, football and soccer fields.