Park Quest, the part-scavenger hunt, part-history quiz that has proven wildly popular with Maryland families in just three years, will expand to allow more participants to play over a longer period.
Free online registration for the event opens at 10 a.m. on April 25. Up to 1,000 teams can enter — up from 750 last year. Families can begin their quests at 24 participating state parks on May 7; the contest will close on Sept. 5.
Quest participants will receive a passport in the mail that contains all 24 parks. To get the passport stamped, families must complete a test at each park and turn in the paperwork at the ranger station. Quests involve teamwork and mastering a skill, such as reading a compass, or physical effort, such as paddling a canoe.
Teams that complete a minimum of 10 quests will be invited to the Park Quest Rendezvous on Sept. 24 to compete for prizes.
Park Quest, modeled on a Connecticut program, began in 2008 with 100 families and six Eastern Shore parks. The second year, it added six parks on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay. Last year, it expanded to 24 parks, and the 750 slots filled in a matter of days despite the lack of a budget to publicize the event.
Parks participating are: Assateague, Cedarville, Cunningham Falls, Deep Creek, Elk Neck, Fair Hill, Fort Frederick, Greenwell, Gunpowder Falls, Herrington Manor, Janes Island, Martinak, New Germany, Patapsco Valley, Pocomoke River, Rocky Gap, Sandy Point, Sassafras, Seneca, Smallwood, Soldier's Delight, South Mountain, Susquehanna and the Western Maryland Rail Trail.
Park Quest online, part of the Department of Natural Resources website, should be up and running by the end of this week.