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Hagerstown City Park is a gem to enjoy across generations

June 24, 2005|By LISA PREJEAN

Being a Washington County native, I have fond memories of going to Hagers-town City Park with my mom and brother on breezy summer days.

We called it "the ducky park" and felt like it belonged to us. Sometimes we'd take a picnic lunch to enjoy. Or, we'd get lunch to go at a fast-food restaurant and enjoy it at the park. Other times we'd stop for just a half-hour or so in between appointments. We really enjoyed our times at the park. In fact, we started to look forward to summertime dentist appointments because we knew where we would head once our pearly whites were at their best.

Those memories came flooding back recently as I sat on a bench with my children looking out across the lake at City Park. We had spent the morning at a dentist's office and were relaxing while watching the ducks, geese and swans glide across the water. I became very grateful that something from my childhood had been preserved and improved over the years. There aren't many memories that we can turn into a shared experience with our children. The landscape of our community has changed drastically through the years.

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It's been said that the things least appreciated are those in our own backyards. That could apply to the park. What a gem it is, but if you haven't been there lately, you might be surprised at what you'll find.

There are several playground areas. New equipment seems to be added on a regular basis. That's not by accident, says Delbert "Junior" Mason, parks superintendent for the City of Hagerstown.

"We've tried over the years to keep buying additional pieces," Mason says.

There is a variety of swings, monkey bars and slides for all sizes of children. Picnic tables are placed throughout the park, which has a good amount of shade, thanks to numerous beautiful, mature trees.

"I enjoy the park." Mason says. "It's one of our more natural parks. We citizens need to be proud of what we have."

The park concession stand is privately operated and offers sandwiches, drinks and snacks. Duck and fish food can be bought there, too.

Some people like to feed the ducks bread crumbs, but that's not a good food for birds, Mason says. "Bread makes them sick."

Cracked corn, which is sold at the concession stand, is a better choice. The ducks should be fed near the water so the feeding doesn't interfere with walkers enjoying the many trails through the park, Mason says. Dogs can be walked on designated trails as long as owners clean up any messes that are made.

There are several types of ducks that migrate in and out of the area, Mason says. The park also is home to Canada geese and basic barnyard geese. The parks department buys the white mute swans that glide across the lake. (They might seem graceful, but they're domineering, too. A swan came over to our side of the lake and nudged at the ducks until they moved out of her path. Those swans really rule the lake.)

The fish are mostly carp.

Squirrels are abundant and entertaining to watch. It's amazing how they can jump from tree branch to tree branch. Just when you think one is going to plummet to his death, he grasps hold of a branch and swings to and fro.

While the park's nature would have enough appeal for a visit, there are also cultural and historical reasons to go.

The park is home to the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Mansion House Art Gallery, Hager House and the new Hagerstown Railroad Museum.

Public restrooms are available, and new restrooms are in the works, Mason says. The city's engineering department is working on a design that will fit in with the history of the park.

"We're certainly hoping to have them done before next year," Mason says.

One set of restrooms by the softball diamond at the rear of the park is being remodeled, and a new pavilion is being built.

It's wonderful to see this gem being protected and preserved for future generations. Maybe someday I'll be able to take my grandchildren there.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for the Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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