Rock Creek Park celebrates its 125th anniversary next year. We speak with two local experts with books about the history, flora, and fauna that abound in Washington's "backyard."
Did you know there’s an aquatic garden in D.C. and a wetland habitat in Alexandria, Va.? If you’re looking to get outdoors this fall, there are endless hidden gems to explore in the region. And if you’re looking for a hands on experience, Saturday is National Public Lands Day, a chance for volunteers to help blaze new trails, plant trees and clean up thousands of acres of parkland. Join us for tips on where to connect with nature this fall.
- Robb Hampton Director, Public Lands Programs
- Candy Thomson Reporter, The Baltimore Sun
Map: Favorite Fall Outdoor Activities In The D.C. Region
Along with our listeners, Baltimore Sun reporter Candy Thomson and Robb Hampton, director of the Public Lands Programs, share their favorite places to enjoy the autumn weather in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
View Favorite Fall Outdoor Activities In The D.C. Region in a larger map
What are your favorite outdoor recreation spots? Let us know in the comments.
Volunteer On National Public Lands Day
Find volunteer projects in the D.C. metro area for National Public Lands Day on Sept. 24, 2012.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Did you know there's an aquatic garden in D.C., a wetland habitat in Alexandria, Va., and a dinosaur park full of fossils in Prince George's County? If you're looking to get outdoors this fall, there are endless hidden gems to explore, some right in your backyard.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd if you're looking for a hands-on experience, Saturday is National Public Lands Day. You can join other volunteers to help blaze new trails, plant trees or clean up parks and waterways. Whatever activity you choose, this is the season to get outside and hike, paddle or bike. Joining us in studio is Candy Thomson. She's a reporter for The Baltimore Sun who has written about the outdoors for more than a decade. It's been that long, Candy?
MS. CANDY THOMSONOh.
NNAMDIFrom politics to the outdoors in 10 years or less.
NNAMDICandy Thomson, good...
THOMSONAll wildlife, Kojo.
NNAMDIAlways a pleasure. Robb Hampton is the director of the Public Lands Program, part of the National Environmental Education Foundation. Robb Hampton, thank you for joining us.
MR. ROBB HAMPTONThanks. It's great to be here.
NNAMDIIf you've got comments or questions, call us at 800-433-8850, send us a tweet, @kojoshow, email to email@example.com, or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join the conversation there. Candy, the weather has finally cooled down. The bugs are finally going away, and there are a whole lot of things, it would appear, to do outdoors. But start us off with a few of your favorites.
THOMSONWell, first, I want to say, Kojo, it's great to be on the number one rated station in D.C.
NNAMDIOh, you noticed?
THOMSONI did notice. It's nice to be along for the ride.
NNAMDIThank you very much. With your help, we'll be able to stay there.
THOMSONWell, I'll tell you, this weather today certainly feels more like an early summer day than an early fall day. But, certainly, we've gotten a taste of the nice cool brisk crisp weather, and it certainly wants me to get out. We've got so many wonderful things around here from the Appalachian Trail, which you can get to fairly easily. The fish know that it's cooler, so they're a little more active and easier to catch. It's great to go out and ride, you know, ride your bike and not have bugs in your teeth when you're riding.
NNAMDITell us about the western Maryland rail trail.
THOMSONWell, you know, that's a good one if you've got a bunch of kids of all kinds of age.
THOMSONYeah. And they have, you know, you've got people who go at different speeds. The western Maryland rail trail is one of those former railroad lines that they've paved, and it's about 22 miles long. And it's out near Hancock, and it's great. Dr. Gridlock, my husband, has ridden that and found it to be...
THOMSONHe absolutely loved it. It's a wonderful ride. You can bike off just as much as you want. Hancock has got some nice places for ice cream when you're done. And at the one end, there's a fort, Fort Frederick, from the Revolutionary War days. It's just like Fort McHenry without the Inner Harbor.
NNAMDIHow about if I'm interested in collecting fossilized sharks' teeth?
THOMSONOh. Well, you know, I really -- I agonize about telling you about this one...
THOMSON...because everybody goes to Culver Cliffs.
THOMSONIt is the place where people go to get their shark teeth if you're into that kind of thing.
THOMSONAnd, you know, I mean, it gets picked down a little bit. You know, certainly, the tide washes in, and some more are always revealed. But there can be a crowd, and, you know, you can find little fingernail-sized ones. Well, I like the big hunk and, you know, shot-glass-sized ones.
THOMSONSo first state park, it's a Maryland state park. It's a very small park on the Potomac River. If you go there at low tide and if you go on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' website and go to their park section, you can actually look up the tide chart. Go at low tide, and you're going to find yourself some really nice shark teeth.
NNAMDIOK. I've changed my mind. I want to go paddling.
THOMSONYou are a tough man to please, Kojo.
THOMSONAll right. Well, I mean, the lucky thing for all of us is the Potomac River, the Patuxent River have wonderful, wonderful coves where if you're, you know, you've got a family or you want to go slowly, you don't want any whitewater, wonderful opportunities, everything from Pohick Park over in Virginia to Mattawoman Creek in Maryland, Jug Bay Sanctuary. On the Prince George's-Anne Arundel line, there's a fabulous place, great wood duck population, tons and tons of bald eagles and frogs for the kids to see, and it's just a wonderful place.
NNAMDIHow about if I don't have a whole lot of time on my hands?
THOMSONI've got some postcards you can look at.
NNAMDIIt's called stump Candy...
NNAMDI...stump Candy Thomson is what we're doing here.
THOMSONWell, you know, you've always got the Capital Crescent Trail for a quick bike ride or a walk along the C&O Canal. And if you want to do a little rocks, you can go in the Billy Goat Trail right there along the C&O Canal and get great views of the Potomac River. I mean, this place is just spin the dial.
NNAMDILet's see what our listeners have to add. What are your favorite local spots for getting outdoors in the fall? Call us at 800-433-8850, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org, send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there. Robb, it's not just national parks that are involved. What other places are participating in National Public Lands Day in our region?
HAMPTONIt's everything from Bureau of Land Management sites. We have one in Virginia. Springfield, Va. is the only Bureau of Land Management site on the eastern part of the United States. It's called Meadow Woods Special Recreation Management Area. But we also have all of the Virginia state parks. I believe there's 42 of them are all participating this Saturday on National Public Lands Day.
HAMPTONMontgomery County parks are participating. And then if you go out west, I know we want to talk about local, but we have all the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Army Corps of Engineers. Really, you name it, they're participating. From -- we have...
NNAMDID.C. may not be participating officially, but we have a lot of national parks here in D.C.
HAMPTONOh, D.C., if you look at a map of the National Park Service units, there's a higher concentration really of National Park Service units in Washington, D.C. than anywhere else. A lot of people don't realize that all of our national monuments and memorials on The Mall are National Park Service units.
NNAMDIAnd if one doesn't have a lot of time to spare, you can volunteer very close to home. If you're in D.C., you can volunteer right here in Rock Creek Park on the C&O Canal. Any public park near you is likely to have something going on this weekend, right?
HAMPTONAbsolutely. And I think your station's website did an excellent map that you can look at some of the -- just a few, a sampling of the national park or public land units.
NNAMDIJust kojoshow.org. You can find it there. How about kids? Can families do this?
HAMPTONThis is an excellent kids' activity. I've got a 3-year-old, and one of her favorite thing to -- things to do is pulling weeds. And one of the most popular...
HAMPTON...activities on National Public Lands Day is pulling invasive weeds and planting native vegetation. So it's an excellent activity from anything from toddlers to senior citizens, really.
NNAMDIHow did National Public Lands Day come about?
HAMPTONWell, it was -- it's a program of the National Environmental Education Foundation, and we partner with many of the federal land management agencies. And we wanted to have a day to celebrate our public lands, and we thought what better way to do that than volunteers -- getting people out there who already appreciate their land to get out and lend a hand for those lands. And what started as just three sites and a couple of hundred volunteers has blossomed to about 2,100 different units and about 170- to 180,000 volunteers.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones. We start with Liz in Alexandria, Va. Liz, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LIZHi, Kojo. Thank you for taking my call.
LIZI just wanted to mention there's a wonderful -- out there in Alexandria, Va. called Belle Haven Marina that has sailing, kayaking, canoeing. I believe it's part of the public parks facility. It's wonderful. Their website is beldc.com, and I love it. And the kayaking there is great.
THOMSONWell, and you've got snakehead fish, too. That's...
THOMSONI've actually caught a snakehead right there at Belle Haven -- nice-sized fish. And you -- they want you to kill them, so you should kill them and stir-fry them. And they taste really good.
LIZYeah. I think...
LIZ...they have some competition with as many heads you bring in, you win something.
NNAMDILiz, thank you...
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. You, too, can call us. Do you fish? Have you ever found yourself on private land? A topic we will be discussing later. 800-433-8850. Do you hike, bike or kayak? Where do you like to go? Robb, national parks are under a real funding crunch, and they've had to cut back again and again in recent years. How important are volunteers to our parks?
HAMPTONOh, very important. You know, one of the missions of National Public Lands Day is just to get people connected to their public lands, and we believe, you know, once people have one to two or three experiences out there on a day like National Public Lands Day, they're going to come back. And they're going to appreciate what they have out there. All these lands are ours to share and enjoy and recreate and learn on.
HAMPTONSo these lands, including national parks, are extremely important to everybody, and the work that is accomplished on National Public Lands Day usually volunteers contribute to about 17 to $18 million worth of improvements.
NNAMDIIf someone would like to volunteer this weekend, what should that person do? Where should they go to sign up?
HAMPTONOur website is publiclandsday.org, and we have a real handy map that you can click on, Maryland, D.C., Virginia and ZIP code locator and find your closest park near you.
NNAMDIYou'll find a link to that website at our website, kojoshow.org. Candy, it's fly-fishing season. For those who want to give it a try, where do you recommend they go?
THOMSONWell, it's not easy to learn, and I -- take it from somebody who can make a fly line go out in flowing script and spell my name.
THOMSONI mean, I've had it wrapped it around everything possible. I'm serious. It takes time, and you'd be happy to know the women out there that the fly fishing guides I know say they would much rather teach a woman than a man because it's not all muscle powering the fishing line. It's -- there's a little bit of finesse. There's a little bit of patience. We have some, you know, some great local waters.
THOMSONWe have folks fish -- fly-fishing on the Potomac River. Up in the Baltimore area, they fly-fish on the Gunpowder River, which is a blue-ribbon trout steam. It's got a national designation. I mean, there's just about any place you can fly -- any place you can fish, you can fly-fish. Guys catch stripe bass in the Chesapeake Bay on a fly, very hard to do, very -- it's a lot of fun.
NNAMDIBut it's not all fun. There have been disputes in Virginia about where people can fish. In Virginia, people have been hit with criminal trespassing charges for wading in rivers on private property. What's going on?
THOMSONWell, it's an age-old problem, and it's not only fly-fishing. It extends to people who like to go tubing. It's water rights, and those fights go way back. As a matter of fact, Maryland and Virginia ended up in the Supreme Court over water rights involving the Potomac River. Maryland said our property line goes right up to the Virginia line. The river belongs to us, and you can't take any water out of it.
THOMSONAnd Virginia, which wanted to make some more drinking water supply, said the river belongs to America. I mean, it's America's river, and that went all the way up to the Supreme Court. And the Rehnquist court, in a 7-2 decision, said, you know what, Maryland property line may go all the way up to the shores of Virginia, but the water, you know, can be used by Virginia for navigation and for uses like drinking water. So that would seem to be settled law, at least where two states are fighting.
NNAMDIWell, rivers and streams are public unless someone can prove...
NNAMDI...that they, that person, has a special grant that predates the Commonwealth law in Virginia that says that that person owns the river bottom, too?
THOMSONWell, you know, that's interesting. Maryland has decided just the opposite. The Court of Appeals there says, you know, yes, indeed you do. Landowners have certain rights out into the water to put up a dock if it's, you know, if it meets local code and state code. But the water is a navigation channel, and therefore, you know, you can't really own the water. And that's what Maryland has said. So it makes it kind of interesting. I guess you can float on the water, but just don't put your feet down.
NNAMDIYeah. Well, some landowners claim that they do have titles to the river bottom based on historical grants dating to King George II in the 18th century in Virginia. And so there are, needless to say, disputes, legal disputes. A judge has agreed with those people, saying that the defendants will have to prove otherwise if these cases of people walking along riverbeds, that people claim to own, go to trial.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. You may not be concerned with that all. You may just be calling us to recommend places to go or to ask about places, so let's go to Joni (sp?) in Wheaton, Md. Joni, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JONIThank you. For many years, I was runner up to my 40s and 50s. Then I, because of my knees, became a walker in, you know, some trails. Now, I'm almost 80, and I have to use a walker. I've kind of exhausted Brookside Gardens, and to some extent, like, Needwood, where, you know, going between parking lots and a little bit of -- but is there any place that's more accessible, like, to the woods or some additional place for people who use walkers?
NNAMDIInteresting question. Robb?
HAMPTONI would say if you're in the Wheaton area, a really quick place to go down to is the Sligo Creek Trail. They have a paved path right there. It's not too far from Brookside Gardens. In fact, I think, the trail might connect to Brookside Gardens, so might want to check that out. And then they have a lot of single track trails if you want to venture out and take a little walk out there. That might be a good place for you to go.
NNAMDIJoni -- go ahead, please.
JONIYeah, that's a good idea.
NNAMDIThank you very much for you call, Joni, and good luck to you. We've got to take a short break. When we come back, we continue our conversation on getting outdoors this fall. Have you ever found a national or state park to be too crowded for your liking? 800-433-8850, or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIBack to our conversation about getting outdoors this fall. We're talking with Robb Hampton. He is the director of the Public Lands Program, part of the National Environmental Education Foundation. Saturday, Sept. 29, is National Public Lands Day, a chance to volunteer at a park or waterway. You can visit the website to find out how to sign up at publiclands.org. There's also a link at our website, kojoshow.org.
NNAMDIJoining Robb in studio is Candy Thomson, Baltimore Sun reporter who has written about the outdoors for more than a decade. And she has reminded us that Saturday is, what, fee free day in National...
THOMSONHard to say, isn't it?
NNAMDIFee free day in national parks.
THOMSONOh, you're a pro.
NNAMDINational parks. You can go to any national park for free on Saturday. You can take a van load. You can come in by yourself. You can bring a bus load of people. Everybody gets in free. So it's a wonderful chance, if it was a park you always wanted to go to and you're not doing one of Robb's projects or -- can you do both, Robb?
HAMPTONYou could do both. If you volunteer on National Public Lands Day at a national park, you will receive a fee-free coupon to return to any national park service unit or it could also be if you want to travel out West, a BLM or an Army Corps of Engineers site as well. And, like Candy said, that means you could take your family to Yosemite for free.
NNAMDII have been asking you, Robb, so much about National Public Lands Day that I omitted to ask you to name some of your favorite spots in the region. Apparently, you recommend one hidden gem here in D.C., an aquatic garden.
HAMPTONYeah. Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is a long -- one of our longest running National Public Lands Day sites. I have to give a special shout out to Alan Spears, who's with the National Parks Conservation Association and we partner on this project, and he's the site manager there. He works with the National Park Service Department with us. But Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is in Northeast D.C., and it is a hidden gem.
HAMPTONWhat the volunteers are doing -- really the best time of the year to go, to be frankly honest with you, is June and July when the lotus are blooming in the ponds. But National Public Lands Day is a close second because you get to go on pontoon boats or high-chest waders. Candy probably uses them for fly fishing.
HAMPTONAnd pull out all the cut lotus that National Park Service has to cut down and remove before winter comes.
NNAMDIThere are also some unusual activities this weekend. You can help paint cannons at Manassas National Battlefields or clean headstones at the Maddox Park, correct?
HAMPTONYeah, absolutely. In addition to trail maintenance and fence construction at Manassas, you can paint actual cannons that were used in the Civil War. I think that's pretty cool. And that's a great example that a lot of the volunteer service projects are really unique to each location. Some of the basic things that we do do, though, are trail maintenance and pulling invasive weeds and planting real -- native trees. But those are just a few.
HAMPTONAnd another cool one, I think Candy mentioned, is Mattawoman Creek is a great place to kayak. And you could get your chance to kayak on Saturday where volunteers are going to be kayaking the creek to pick up the trash and discarded fishing line.
NNAMDIFor bird watchers?
HAMPTONOh, for bird watchers, no question. It's Mason Neck State Park.
NNAMDIMason Neck Park.
HAMPTONIf you're one of those birders who goes out and who's looking for the big year, hike -- you could hike and find over 200 different species of birds at Mason Neck.
NNAMDIOn to the phones again to Debbie in Woodbridge, Va. Debbie's got a question. You're on the air, Debbie. Go ahead, please.
DEBBIEThank you. I'm curious about the Rappahannock River. Where can I put in my kayak? I've not been able to find a good map for it.
NNAMDIAny suggestions along that line, Candy?
THOMSONNo. Boy, that's a stumper. You've stumped the panel here.
NNAMDIYou've stumped the panel here.
THOMSONUnbelievable. Try to think of some place good to ask. I guess...
HAMPTONI would have to plug -- there's two online resources that you can check, is one is recreation.gov. And there, you might be able to find some information. The other, there's a handy online application that you could download either on your iPhone, or you could check out their website called Oh, Ranger. That's O-H Ranger. And that's crowd source, so people can comment on where they've gone. And if they don't have the answer, that might be a place to ask and find somebody local who knows that answer.
THOMSONOr the state. I would ask the state of Virginia. They've got an inland fisheries department, and they might actually know because kayakers are often fishermen as well.
DEBBIEOK. Thank you very much.
NNAMDIDebbie, good luck to you. We move on to Chuck in Winchester, Va. Chuck, your turn.
CHUCKOh, thanks for taking the call. Just a quick comment. I'm very close to Washington, D.C. And within a two-hour drive is Woodstock, Va. In this time of year, in particular, is the winds are flying about 10 to 15 miles an hour. From the northwest, you can find the premiere hang gliding site and hang gliders flying off of the Woodstock Mountain. And this, of course, is a perfect time of year with the fall leaves changing to watch some of them flying.
THOMSONAnd take great pictures. They make great photos.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Chuck. Robb, one interesting place that many people don't -- may not realize is a National Park, Wolf Trap where there is a performing arts center.
NNAMDIThat's on the list of places where there are going to be activities on Saturday.
HAMPTONThat's great. That's a great example of another location here in D.C. That's a National Park Service unit that many people utilize throughout the summer, of course, with their concerts. But on Saturday, they're going to have -- host Let's Move activities. And if you're not familiar with Let's Move, it's the national initiative from first lady Michelle Obama which promotes outdoor activities to get healthy.
HAMPTONAnd we're doing this at a lot of different places throughout the nation. So at Wolf Trap, I'm not sure exactly what they're doing, but they're going to be encouraging kids to be active and make healthy lifestyle choices.
NNAMDIThank you. On to Michael in Alexandria, Va. Michael, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MICHAELHi. Thanks for taking my call. I was playing basketball at Jones Point Park which just opened up underneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge the other day. And I met this Russian kid who'd just come here, and he was on his bicycle. And he was asking me, where are some beautiful places to go biking? And I've been in Alexandria for, like, six months now, and I told him that I didn't really know.
MICHAELSo he went right on the trail. I mean, I know there's, you know, the trail. I live right on there. And I told him about Rock Creek Parkway. But besides the, you know, two big ones, like, I didn't really have any idea where to send him and what direction. Could you give me a suggestion for the area for a nice bike ride?
HAMPTONYeah. Sure. If he's on a road bike, I could probably answer to that. But Rock Creek Park is a great place to start out. Also, the C&O Canal, if you're heading north on that towards Bethesda, you could also take the Capital Crescent Trail. That's a great way to get out of the city. I prefer -- I'm a cyclist, and I prefer to go to the Upper Montgomery County area. Much of the Northern Montgomery County area is an agricultural reserve. So it's -- the roads out there are phenomenal to ride on.
HAMPTONThen, of course, back to public lands. One of the great areas to go road cycling in the area, a destination ride is Shenandoah National Park. So I hope your Russian friend is a climber.
NNAMDIAnd, Michael, we got an email from Nicholas, who says, "Fountain Head Regional Park offers some of the best mountain biking in the region. The trails were redesigned this year, and they are fantastic." So you should have a lot of information for your young friend, Michael. Thank you very much for your call. Here now is George in Lewes, Del., going back to an issue we discussed earlier. George, you're on the air. Go ahead, please, and clarify.
GEORGEYeah. Thank you very much. I love your show. I have an explanation, and it goes back to old English law how a private landowner can own a land under a river.
NNAMDIThe riverbed. Go ahead, please.
GEORGEYeah. The river changes its course, and his property rights went to the edge of the river, but then the river came onto his property. So he, according to old English law, he still -- his property line is still where it was. And so the river is now on his property, hence...
GEORGESo he owns the land under the river as it changed course. And it's been an area of dispute for a while, but there's a legal term for it. But he retains the borders of his property even though the river changes. And the river can change because of a hurricane or, you know, a flood.
NNAMDIDoes that mean that if someone is walking along that riverbed, fly fishing on his property and he tells that person, it is my property, does he have to show them some kind of document to prove it?
GEORGEWell, not only that. He can block their entrance by fencing it right down to the water.
NNAMDIYeah. But, apparently, a lot of people have chosen not to do that because they want to go fishing there themselves.
NNAMDII think it's post -- it's like posting for deer season...
GEORGE...of private property, no deer hunting kind of thing.
NNAMDIYou post a sign.
NNAMDIYeah. Well, no, in Delaware, you have to have your signs every 50 feet, like your no trespassing, no hunting.
NNAMDIYeah, 'cause I'm thinking people not knowing the law walking in to there and suddenly find themselves being intimidated by somebody...
THOMSONOr being shot at.
NNAMDIOr being shot...
NNAMDI...by somebody who says, this is my spot. But, George, thank you very much for that clarification. We move on to J.T. in Washington, D.C. J.T. is a mountain biker. J.T., you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
J.T.Hey, Kojo. Great show. Been a longtime listener. My question -- one of my questions is -- I'm not a crazy downhiller. I just like to ride the trails. I'd like to know why and how it would be possible for mountain bikers to ride the trails in the national parks like Manassas, National Battlefield, Rock Creek. I know horses -- there's a horse trail through there, but bikes have never been able to ride there.
J.T.I would be willing to pay to get a pass to go ride there and do maintenance, you know, in exchange. And also, to add to the comment about Fountainhead, I just rode there last weekend. It's phenomenal. It's -- they've done a lot of great work there. Also -- excuse me, I'm really excited being on the air.
J.T.I'm trying to fit it all in real fast. Seneca farms up in Germantown, Md. has some wonderful trails up there. And the trails also connect up with a bunch of different parts out there in Montgomery County, and they're really fantastic trails. But one of my picking points is wanting to get, you know, access to battlefields, you know, like Manassas, Gettysburg and other places like that. And the national parks could tap into a resource of people that would be willing to do trail maintenance to keep these trails up in exchange for being able to ride there.
NNAMDII don't know if Robb Hampton can address that, but I'll keep trying.
HAMPTONYeah, I could try. The proper group that you want to check into is the International Mountain Bicycling Association. And they have local chapters. The local chapter is called MORE, Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts. And they can -- I know that that's an issue that both of those organizations has brought up. And I think there's two issues with that. One is that the National Park Service, their -- basically, their mission is the preservation of these locations, especially the battlefields, rather than the conservation of these areas.
HAMPTONSo they want to keep these areas in pristine condition. And then, number two, in terms of specifically Rock Creek Park, I think, is one of the issues is overuse. So you have overuse of these trails. You know, mountain biking definitely has a different use or impact, rather, than horseback riding or just hiking. And, trust me, you know, I'm a mountain biker, too. I would really -- and I'm close by Rock Creek Park. I would really love to jump in there and rip it up. But, you know, I would contact those two trail -- those two organizations and follow up with that.
THOMSONAnd I would like to throw in two great mountain bike areas, Rosaryville State Park in Maryland, southern Maryland. The Maryland state park superintendent is a avid mountain biker, and she loves Rosaryville. And then the other one is Patapsco Valley State Park, which has great mountain bike trails. And they even occasionally have a ride at night so that you have a leader and a sweep, and everybody can ride. And it's night, and it's great. And it's spooky and terrific.
NNAMDIAnd it doesn't matter whether you're experienced or a beginner. There are a lot of trails.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, J.T. Good luck to you. Here is Wynn (sp?) in Takoma Park, Md. Wynn, your turn.
WYNNHi. Thank you for taking may call. I, years ago, had a permit in Florida issued by the state that allowed me to collect fossils on public lands and public rivers. I was wondering if there's anything like that for any of the jurisdictions around here.
NNAMDIYou know, we had a show on that awhile ago. But it, as I said, was a while ago. Robb.
HAMPTONI don't know. I have not heard of that.
THOMSONIs this a commercial venture, or you're just collecting for yourself?
WYNNNo, no, just for personal. They made you watch a training video about what sort of things you might find and who you should report stuff to if you find something significant. And then they -- you would write, I think, every month, send them a report of your finds.
HAMPTONI don't know anything, but that's a great reminder to all the listeners that if you do come across any sort of artifacts, is that the law states that you need to leave those things there. So any sort of, you know, clay pottery or anything that you might find around this area is leave it alone and alert the local park.
THOMSONI know the state park that I mentioned, Purse State Park with the fossilized shark teeth, and also Calvert Cliffs, I mean, people just walk in. There's no permit needed.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Wynn. You, too, can call us at 800-433-8850. We're talking about getting outdoors this fall. Where are your favorite local spots for getting outdoors in the fall? 800-433-8850. Do you hike, bike or kayak? Where do you like to go? You can send us email to email@example.com, a tweet @kojoshow, or go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join the conversation there. When we come back, Candy Thomson will tell us about what's been happening at Gunpowder State Park in Maryland. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIThinking of getting outdoors this fall? Want to know where to go? We've got in studio Candy Thomson, Baltimore Sun reporter who has written about the outdoors for more than a decade, and Robb Hampton, director of the Public Lands program, part of the National Environmental Education Foundation. You should know that Saturday, Sept. 29, is National Public Lands Day, a chance for you to volunteer at a park or waterway.
NNAMDIYou can visit their website to find out how to sign up at publiclandsday.org. There's also a link to our website, kojoshow.org. Candy Thomson, we've talked about some lesser known spots, but others are not so unknown. Some are more like amusement parks. What's been happening at Gunpowder State Park in Maryland?
THOMSONWell, it's one of more than 60 state parks, and it's close to Baltimore and Baltimore County. And it's even easy to get to from here. It is very well used. It's a nice river. It flows very, you know, gently, except in spring. And a number of years ago -- probably 30, 40 years ago -- Trout Unlimited came to a deal with the city of Baltimore, which has three reservoirs on the river, to mix the water from the reservoir so that you would get the right temperature for trout because at the bottom of the reservoir is very cold water, at the top is warm.
THOMSONYou want something a little in between for trout. And so the city of Baltimore agreed, and they restored the trout population to the point where the Gunpowder River is known as a blue-ribbon trout stream. And it is. It's lovely. And it's so close to the city, and you wouldn't know it. Well, fishermen, of course, love that kind of thing. And they're...
NNAMDINice, quiet place, yes.
THOMSONYeah. Bubbling water. Well, families always used it to go tubing, and they coexisted just fine: families, fishermen. And then, all of a sudden, two commercial tubing operations set up shop on the river, delivering people. You know, you used to have to haul your tube upriver and then float down, and then haul your tube up, float. Well, these guys, of course, had shuttle buses, which allowed people to not only bring their tube and their lunch, but also six-packs of beer, 12-packs of beer, your wine coolers.
NNAMDIOther forms of alcohol.
HAMPTONTwenty-four packs of beer.
THOMSONTwenty-four. That's right. And before you knew it, you had yourself a real conflict last year. And both sides just went at it. The state is understaffed to, you know, to be able to mediate these disputes. Everybody sort of sat down and promised to behave themselves, and this year it started up again. And, of course, we had the hottest July of any month on record. And at one point, tempers got so bad that a man came out of his house and fired over the heads of some tubers. He's due in court. One of the tubing company owners is also due in court for not having a license and operating...
NNAMDIYeah, the Maryland Natural Resources Police say that using a state park this way for a commercial enterprise is illegal.
THOMSONIt's illegal, and catch him if you can. I mean, that's part of it. You know, you've got cops who are, you know, patrolling parks, and there are few -- very few state natural resources police officers. And, you know, they're stretched out over the entire state of Maryland, 62 parks, the Chesapeake Bay. They are not going to be sitting along the road, looking for these buses.
NNAMDIWell, the majority of complaints seem to involve the crowd's alcohol, noise and trash. But what does that mean for others who use the river, for example, the anglers?
THOMSONWell, those guys complain about, you know, they're there, and they can see with their polarized $700 sunglasses on. They can see that brown trout under that rock. And just as they're about to let their fly line go so that it drifts down in front of this big, hungry trout, here come 25 tubers who are having a good time. So everybody is mad at everybody else, and the locals are mad because the tubers are parking absolutely everywhere -- you know, in front of their driveways, on the side of the road, any place.
THOMSONSome of them are not very good stewards of the environment, so they leave their trash. And we have a huge mess. I mean -- and the master plan for the river goes back probably 30 years. So, clearly, something has to be updated.
NNAMDIYou mentioned that the state agencies that oversee the Gunpowder were trying to address this, and they apparently thought they had. But this summer, it erupted again. So what's next?
THOMSONWell, my feeling is -- and I think this'll happen -- you know, no one wants to see the river completely fall apart. They worked too hard to get it where it was. I think somebody is going to have to sit down this winter.
THOMSONYou know, everybody is going to have plenty of time this winter -- you're not going to be fishing, you're not going to be tubing -- and sit down and say, we have to rebuild this master plan, and we have to come up with a way that regulates what planners always call the carrying capacity of a park -- that is, how many people can go to a park without, you know, without everybody feeling that they're sitting on top of each other.
NNAMDIYeah, I was going to ask you about that next because that can be a more general issue when people -- and I'd like to hear you weigh in on this, too, Robb -- when people want to use state parks...
NNAMDI...for different activities, that those activities are not always necessarily compatible. How can that be addressed?
THOMSONWell, certainly Maryland -- I know this because they've been wrestling with this for a while -- they have parks that are absolutely jam-packed on weekends. And they shut -- they closed the gate, and they tweet to people that they've now closed the gate. I mean, there is a park up on Route 40, out near Boonsboro, that people are lined up to get in at 6 a.m. And most of the cars are from D.C. because it's got a lake and a gorgeous beach, and it's just a really terrific park.
THOMSONAnd they're lined up 40, 50 cars at 6 a.m. on a weekend. And, you know, and they have to close it down. So that's one mechanism that they use. I mean, surely the state would love to be able to make more parks, but that's just -- that's hard to come by unless somebody gives you the land.
NNAMDIWhat are your thoughts, Robb?
HAMPTONYeah. I think that's Greenbrier State Park.
HAMPTONI don't know if you didn't want to mention it earlier.
THOMSONNo, no, no. I was...
HAMPTONMy thoughts are -- a lot of it has to do with education. And like our earlier caller wanted to know, why can't we mountain bike in Rock Creek Park? Well, as soon as you educate the user on why you can't mountain bike in Rock Creek Park or wherever, they might not like it, but at least they know why they can't.
HAMPTONSo when -- there's a saying that our parks are getting loved to death, and this is another great example on really why national events, not just National Public Lands Day, but volunteer events like National Public Lands Day are so important is so people can go back and volunteer and give back and kind of combat that overusage on one day.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones again. This time we go to Linda in Hughesville, Md. Linda, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LINDAThank you very much. Robb Hampton, do you know that the Bureau of Land Management owns 450 acres at Douglas Point on the western side of Charles County?
HAMPTONI do not know that.
LINDAAnd it's part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. And it's somewhere near Purse State Park, but...
HAMPTONOh, OK. Well, thanks for letting me know. There's another BLM area on the eastern side of the United States, in Florida, in Jupiter, Fla. There's a lighthouse that the Bureau of Land Management manages. It's very unusual because most of the land that the BLM manages is in the West.
LINDARight. I knew that. And I just wanted you to know that...
LINDAAll right. Thanks.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Linda. On to Jim in Alexandria, Va. Jim, your turn.
JIMThanks, Kojo. I just want to throw out a couple of suggestions for people. One would be the Billy Goat Trail.
JIMAnd certainly it's always -- it's very accessible to people. It's very beautiful, and it's not too far away from D.C. I also had a question that my understanding is there is some land that's owned by the Smithsonian in Maryland. I don't know if that is open to the public or not. They do research there. I don't know if one of your guests may have any information on that, but I'll just take my comment. And thank you for the opportunity.
NNAMDIThat might be out of Front Royal where the Smithsonian National Park and the National Zoo does all of its research. We've had scientists from out there on the broadcast talking about it. And, yes, they do allow visits out there. But I guess you can check the website for the Smithsonian National Zoo, and you can find out when you can visit there, Jim.
JIMThank you so much, Kojo.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. You, too, can call us at 800-433-8850. We got this one from -- I think it's Aaron, "What kind of harvest festivals or good farm tours are there in the area?" Candy Thomson, stump Candy time.
THOMSONOh, my goodness. I mean, I would just get online. The state of Maryland, I know, the Department of Natural Resources carries a lists of many of those things, the Maryland Department of Agriculture. And I assume the counterparts in Virginia do exactly the same thing. They're usually clearing houses for those types of things. They are fun to do, that's for sure.
NNAMDIOn to Michelle in Lanham, Md. Michelle, your turn.
MICHELLEHey, Kojo, how are you? And hello to your guests.
NNAMDII am well and...
NNAMDI...hi back at you.
MICHELLELong time, no see, but that's another conversation. Anyway, I am a Girl Scout troop leader for Brownies, which are second and third-graders, ages 8 to 9. And I was wondering about some recommendations for parks and trails that I can take them to for hiking and observing nature, something local.
THOMSONWhere are you?
THOMSONOh, you are in -- whereabouts?
MICHELLEIn Lanham area.
THOMSONOh, the Lanham area. OK. You know, a lot of people forget about it, but Greenbelt Park, which is part of the National Park Service, is a very nice park, very close in. You can actually camp there. I mean, it's probably the closest campground to D.C.
HAMPTONRight off 495.
THOMSONRight off -- yeah. I would go there. That's a really nice hike. There are nice hikes along the Savage River in Howard County. There's a lovely nature center there in the middle -- I think it's the Middle Patuxent River, the Middle Patuxent Environment Center, also a very good place. The Howard County Conservancy has a lovely farm that's worth walking around, just a lot of fun with some outbuildings from the 1800s and some recreations.
HAMPTONAnd I would also mention that Public Lands Day -- we have a partnership with the Girls Scouts that, if you participate, you're eligible for a Girl Scout patch. And we have more information on our website about that.
NNAMDIMichelle, thank you very much for your call. On now to Bob in Bethesda, Md. Hi, Bob.
BOBHi, Kojo. Thanks for the opportunity. I love the show when I get a chance to listen to it. I wanted to add some additional information about -- particularly mountain biking in the region.
BOBI am a trail liaison with MORE -- and thanks for the plug earlier -- strictly for the Schaeffer Farm trail system up in Germantown. And coming up on Oct. 14, MORE has an event, that we are in the third year now of running called the MoCo Epic. It's a supported mountain bike ride -- it's not a race -- that will touch 11 different parks in Montgomery County with multiple aid stations.
BOBThis year for the first time, we will actually have an all-day mountain bike festival, which starts and finishes out of the SoccerPlex in Germantown. There will be four different rides ranging in link from 25 to 65 miles and the -- as long as kids rides demo bikes from some major bike vendors. It's going to be quite a large...
NNAMDIIt sounds like a lot of fun, Bob. Thank you for sharing that with us.
BOBIf people want to know more, they can check it out at mocoepic.org...
BOB...or they can also find links on the MORE website, at more-mtb.org.
NNAMDIOK. Thank you very much for your call, Bob. Here now is Barbara in Front Royal. Va. Barbara, you're on air. Go ahead, please.
BARBARAGood morning, Kojo. I just very briefly want to let people know that the national parks nationwide that charge admission, there is a senior admission, a one-time fee of $10, which gives seniors admission to any one of the national parks in the United States. And I think that's worth knowing.
THOMSONThe Golden Age Pass, I love that thing.
THOMSONI can't wait to be able to get my own.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Barbara. Don't start. Candy Thomson lying about her age just to get the Senior's Pass.
HAMPTONThirty more years.
THOMSONI lie about my height. Come on.
NNAMDIJust to get the Senior's Pass. Here is John in Washington, D.C. John would like to raise a funding issue. John, your turn.
JOHNYeah. Well, talking about the strategic plans and, you know, how do we find out more about how these government agencies are spending, you know, millions of dollars they have for -- of our money? You know, what's the plan? How do we know what they're going to be doing in the (unintelligible) the next three years, five years, that type of thing?
HAMPTONYeah. Well, I think the -- if you're curious about where the National Park Service funding is going and coming from, two resources that you can check out is the -- are the National Park Foundation. I believe their website is nationalparks.org, I think, and then National Parks Conservation Association. I think mentioned them. But there are two organizations that work with the National Park Service on issues like that.
NNAMDIAnd, John, thank you very much for your call. We had some other recommendations for places close by. One is from Richard, "Best outing, if you don't a lot of time, is Theodore Roosevelt Island. Get lunch at the Tivoli and walk on over there." And this one we got from Sam, which goes back to our caller with the Girl Scouts: "Greenbelt Park has a nice campground and 5.3-mile loop hiking trail among others. Ticks are bad there during the summer, so we start hiking there in the fall."
NNAMDISam says, "I live in Northeast D.C. and can be on the trail after a 15-minute drive. It's also walking distance from Metro." We got tweets from Hannah, who says, "I love trails at Great Falls. And Rock Creek, Meridian Hill is perfect for a book on a nice day and great people watching."
NNAMDIThis we got from Erin, "We love Patuxent Wildlife Refuge. Don't forget Oxon Hill Farm, too." And I'm afraid that is all the time we have. Meridian has that drumming on Sunday.
HAMPTONI was just going to say, drum circle Sundays.
NNAMDISundays at Meridian. Robb Hampton, he's the director of Public Lands Program, part of the National Environmental Education Foundation. Saturday, Sept. 29, is National Public Lands Day. It's a chance for you to volunteer at a park or waterway. You can go to their website to find out how to sign up. It's publiclandsday.org, or you can find a link at our website, kojoshow.org. Robb, thank you for joining us.
HAMPTONThanks for having me.
NNAMDICandy Thomson is a Baltimore Sun reporter. She has written about the outdoors for more than a decade. Candy, always a pleasure.
THOMSONI love seeing you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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