Perfect places for a picnic

Parks: The county offers plenty of spots where visitors and residents can spread their blankets and unpack their baskets.

SUMMER In Harford County

July 03, 2005|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Leeann Simton found the perfect spot on the grass near a playground in Tydings Park, opened her picnic basket and took out a sandwich.

Simton lives in Richmond, Va., but when it comes to finding an idyllic location for a picnic, nothing beats coming home to Harford County and getting away from it all in the popular Havre de Grace park.

"Every year I come home to visit with friends and family for the Fourth of July, and I always spend my days in Tydings Park," she said. "I bring my kids some days and come alone on others. I love to sit on the boardwalk or lie on a blanket in the grass and eat my lunch and relax and take it all in.

"It's like something out of a storybook."

While perhaps not quite measuring up to Eiffel Tower Park in Paris or Central Park in New York, Harford County boasts an abundance of spots ideal for that timeless delight, the summer picnic.

Harford residents can choose from more than 100 parks, many of which offer amenities and attractions for a broad range of picnickers, from children to couples to nature lovers to anglers to recreational sports enthusiasts.

Liz Larsen is another transplanted Harford County resident who still has a soft spot for coming back to picnic in the county. She and her family have been meeting at Rockfield Park in Bel Air for the past three years and plan to continue the tradition this year.

"I grew up in Bel Air and moved to Pennsylvania recently," said Larsen. "Even with all the parks around me, I still love this one. It's so beautiful and more importantly, it's safe for the kids. We eat and then spread out our blankets near the playground while the kids play. It's just a perfect place for a picnic."

Rockfield Park is one of the county's more popular parks, said Bob Cooper, public works director for Bel Air.

"This park is probably the only park in Bel Air where people can actually sit and watch the fireworks on the Fourth," said Cooper. "It has the highest elevation of all the parks here, and it's the most accessible because it isn't in city limits. So people can go there on the Fourth and miss a lot of the heavy traffic we get up by the high school."

Terry Carmody, recreation specialist for the county parks and recreation's central district, said the 51-acre park is particularly appealing to nature lovers.

"Rockfield Park is a scenic, pretty area with walking trails and gardens winding through it," said Carmody. "People can go and enjoy the scenic beauty in the park and at the same time picnic outside of Bel Air."

Southern district recreation specialist Lisa Emge said she recommends Flying Point Park and Mariner Point Park.

"These parks are not only beautiful, but have pavilions, which can be reserved," said Emge. "They're located on the water so they're popular. I encourage people to call and reserve pavilions for their special gatherings because they can - and do - fill up."

In addition to Tydings Park, Havre de Grace is home to several picturesque picnic locations, said Wini Roche, the town's tourism and marketing manager. One of the best is the historic Lockhouse at the Susquehanna Museum at Erie and Conesto streets.

The house was built in 1840 and is now a museum for Havre de Grace artifacts.

"There's a grassy waterfront area there. The Lock is currently under restoration and is interesting to explore," Roche said. "While picnicking you are likely to see the landing of a blue heron. Although it doesn't have tables, you can bring a blanket and relax as you look out into the bay."

A similarly appealing site in nearby Aberdeen is Swan Harbor Farm.

"Swan Harbor is wonderful for picnics," said Roche. "It sits on the waterfront and has a big spacious area where couples can have private picnics and enjoy the scenery."

Roche said one of her favorite picnic spots is near the Steppingstone Farm Museum in Susquehanna State Park.

"There's a big hill you can picnic on top of that's near the museum," said Roche. "You just spread out your blanket and see one of the best views in the county; it's just fantastic!"

Picnic pointers

A few tips from county parks officials for those using parks:

Because grass is sometimes damp, a plastic sheet under a blanket can be useful. An inexpensive plastic shower curtain secured to the ground with garden stakes works well.

Many people use bug sprays, but Avon Skin-So-Soft works just as well and can be applied directly to skin.

Bringing grills from home is not allowed. Many parks have grills, and they are available on a first-come basis.

If you know in advance that you have a large group coming, call and reserve a pavilion.

Staff is on duty until 8 p.m. at area parks. If you need help or have a problem, find a staff member.

Picnics in the parks

A sampling of parks in the county that have picnic amenities:

CENTRAL DISTRICT

Information: 410-638-3528

Fallston Recreation Complex, 1809 Fallston Road

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