Washington County Parks
By Karen Gardner | Photography by Turner Photography Studio
From tiny Wilson Bridge Picnic Area to the 18-hole Black Rock Golf Course, Washington County Parks truly do offer something for everyone.
Ball fields, walking trails, wildlife areas, disc golf, tennis and pickleball courts, volleyball courts, dog parks, picnic pavilions, grills, and lots of leafy, shaded open space await you when you visit a Washington County Park.
David Brooks, the county’s parks administrator, said the last two years have been a time of improve-ments for the county’s park system. One of those improvements is Marty’s Mythical Woods, an en-chanting natural playground in a forested setting, with wooden mythical figures, a climbing area, and a swinging rope bridge.
Marty’s Mythical Woods was created out of an area inhabited by tall, straight ash trees that shaded the park for many years. Unfortunately, these trees were decimated by the emerald ash borer and about 20 had to be cut down. The timber was saved for the natural playground, and the figures include gnomes, a spider, a tiny dragon, a large dragon, an ogre, and a treehouse accessible by climbing ropes. The natural delight cost about $60,000 and much of it was paid for with state Program Open Space money.
Jason Stoner of Chain Effect in Fairfield, Pa., carved the figures last summer using a chain saw. The professional chain saw carver carved the figures on site at the park using the stumps of the ash trees. “it’s a neat area,” Brooks said. “You can bring the kids and put your imagination to work.” The woodsy play area is located just off the park’s 1-mile walking trail.
While you’re there, visit the park system’s only swimming pool. The 25-meter swimming pool has six lanes and is open all summer. A fitness trail has workout stations located along the walking/jogging trail.
The park also is home to the Central Bark Dog Park, which has a double-gated entry area, watering areas for humans and canines, seating, and waste disposal. There are also two fenced-in areas, one for large dogs and one for small dogs. While dogs are welcome in all Washington County parks, this park allows dogs to run off-leash and play in groups. The $50,000 park was paid for mostly with Program Open Space money along with some county money.
Playgrounds and Picnic Pavilions
Most Washington County parks have playgrounds and picnic pavilions. Both of those are in the process of being improved with the help of Program Open Space and other funding. Playgrounds are being upgraded with more modern play equipment.
Pen Mar Park, for example, has a new 85-foot double zip line. This zip line is only 3 feet off the ground, which makes it safe even for many kids, but it gives the feel of a much higher zip line and offers users the thrill of a speedy ride.
Playgrounds at Camp Harding, Chestnut Grove and Clear Spring parks have also been improved. “Some of the equipment being replaced is 20 years old,” Brooks said. Upgrades include new rubber coatings on playground platforms to replace peeling coatings. The county employs a playground safety specialist who tracks the condition of playgrounds in all county parks. All new upgrades will meet certified playground safety standards.
Some picnic pavilions are getting new metal roofs and bathroom upgrades. Chestnut Grove, Camp Harding, Clear Spring, Pen Mar, and Devil’s Backbone parks all have freshly upgraded bathrooms.
Wilson Bridge Picnic Area, west of Hagerstown on Old National Pike near the Hagerstown Speedway, is located along U.S. 40 next to Conococheague Creek. Picknickers can wade into the creek and look at the historic stone arch bridge that spans the creek. Picnic tables and grills are provided.
Fields and Courts
While many county parks have softball and baseball fields, there are standouts. Kemp’s Mill Park in Williamsport has three softball fast pitch fields with dugouts and a 210-foot outfield fence. There are also two batting cages. Pinesburg Softball Complex in Williamsport has four fast pitch fields with dugouts, along with a concession stand and bleachers. Both attract tournaments from softball leagues all over the U.S.
Marty Snook Park has two lighted softball fields and is home to the Halfway Little League. This park also has multipurpose fields for soccer, lacrosse, rugby, and football games. Many other parks throughout the system feature baseball fields, multipurpose fields, tennis and pickleball courts, volleyball courts and basketball courts.
Pickleball has become very big in Washington County’s parks, Brooks said. Pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. It can even be played indoors on a badminton-sized court. It uses a paddle instead of a racket and a plastic ball instead of a tennis ball. “We’ve added lines for pickleball at many of our tennis courts,” Brooks said. “There are also designated pickleball courts at Marty Snook Park.”
Pickleball has proved popular with seniors, but it was created as a game for kids. The game can be played as doubles or singles. It’s easy to learn how to lob the ball over the net with the paddle, but as you gain skills, the game can become quite fast-paced.
Golf, Anyone? Or Disc Golf?
Black Rock Golf Course, next to Regional Park, provides a reasonably priced way to get in a round of golf on a challenging course. You’ll be surrounded by views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The course is long, with mature trees and a difficult rough. Tees are placed at different locations on each hole to accommodate various skill levels. “We have some really good playing options,” Brooks said.
There’s also a fully stocked pro shop, an oversized putting green, and a driving range with a chipping green and sand trap.
Weekday rates are $28 to walk the 18 holes and $46 for 18 holes with a cart. Weekend rates are $33 walking and $52 with a cart. Seniors 55 and over pay $20 on weekdays to walk the course and $30 with a cart. There are also twilight rates. Frequent golfer cards give further discounts.
“A lot of seniors play at Black Rock,” Brooks said. There’s a senior golf league with 80 players. Golfing has found many new fans, and Black Rock is a convenient and reasonably priced option, Brooks said.
The Ditto Farms 36-hole disc golf course is at Regional Park. Disc golf uses round, Frisbee-like devices. The goal is to score the fewest points by completing each hole in the fewest number of throws. Unlike traditional golf, however, disc golf is free at Regional Park. Obstacles come in the form of trees, shrubs, and hilly terrain.
Disc golf is easier to learn that traditional golf, yet it gets players outside and moving around. According to the Professional Disc Golf Association, it takes one to two hours to play a round, and it’s a sport you can play alone or with a group. A professional-quality disc costs about $15, and you only need one to play. Courses can be located on as little as 5 acres or up to 40 acres.
Fly fisher enthusiasts can head to Camp Harding and Devil’s Backbone for some trout fishing. Devil’s Backbone Park, near Lappan’s Crossroads, offers a put-in for canoes and kayaks onto Antietam Creek. A footbridge provides access to an island in Antietam Creek and a nature trail which ascends to the summit of Devil’s Backbone. Get to this park early on week-ends, however, because there are only 38 parking spaces. Walk-ins are allowed.
Camp Harding Park, near Big Pool, has a boat ramp for canoe and kayak access, and trout fishing is encouraged. For nature buffs, the park is home to a monarch butterfly waystation sponsored by the Monarch Alliance.
Nature lovers can also make an appointment to visit the Mt. Briar Wetland Preserve. Located along Mill-brook Road near Keedysville, the park contains 1 mile of floating boardwalk. The wetlands area contains an abundance of sphagnum peat, which is normally found in colder climates. It is the largest peat preserve found between Maryland’s coastal plain and Allegheny plateau, and its presence indicates a high-quality wetland.
The wetland preserve features both a deciduous woodland and an upland grassy meadow. Water flows through the upper layer of substrate, causing the moderately acidic soil to be saturated. There are 29 tree species, 81 grass species, 16 shrubs and vines, 4 moss species, and 36 bird species. There are also reptiles and insects. Because the wetlands is sensitive to human disturbance, visitation is limited and by appointment only.
Along with the new zip line, Pen Mar Park provides picnic tables and other traditional features of county parks. The park is at an altitude of 1,400 feet, and it boasts a scenic overlook of the valley to the west. It’s a popular place to view spectacular sunsets.
Another unusual feature of Pen Mar Park is the legendary dance pavilion, which features Sunday afternoon dances to local bands. From 2 to 5 p.m. each Sunday through Oct. 2, the sounds of orchestral, big band, jazz and pop emanate from the large dance floor. The dances draw participants from throughout the Tri-State area.
More on Washington County parks can be found at www.washco-md.net/parks-facilities/county-park.