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State parks in Washington County

September 14, 2007

Washington County has a number of state parks.

· Gathland - Gathland was once the mountain home of Civil War journalist George Alfred Townsend and is the site of a large, stone monument dedicated to the plight of war correspondents.

The Appalachian Trail crosses through this park, which is on the border of Washington and Frederick counties, one mile east of Md. 67 on Gapland Road, south of Boonsboro.

The 140-acre park includes unique buildings that Townsend constructed and The War Correspondents Arch. The park most often is used for hiking and picnicking. It includes a handicapped-accessible museum and shelter.

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The park also is the site of Crampton's Gap, the southernmost gap fought over during the Sept. 14, 1862, Battle of South Mountain, the first major Civil War battle fought in Maryland.

There are several interpretive programs at the park throughout the summer involving Civil War re-enactors. The "Living History" weekend, which is held annually the first weekend after Labor Day, includes demonstrations on the everyday life of Civil War soldiers.

· Greenbrier - Swimming, canoeing, hiking and fishing are available at Greenbrier State Park, a popular camping destination centered around a 42-acre man-made lake.

The park, which is eight miles east of Hagerstown off U.S. 40, has 165 campsites equipped with fire rings, tables and parking and are near bathhouses and hot showers.

The lake is stocked with trout, largemouth bass and bluegill, but in order to fish it, the park requires a Maryland Angler's License. No live minnow bait fishing is allowed.

Lifeguards are on staff from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Pets are only allowed in the undeveloped areas of the park, which can be accessed from the parking lots on Mountain Laurel Road and Greenbrier Road.

The Appalachian Trail runs through a portion of the park at Bartman's Hill.

The park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset.

Day use service charges are $3 per person from Memorial Day through Labor Day and $4 per person on weekends. From Labor Day through Memorial Day, the cost is $3 per vehicle. Out-of-state residents add $1 to all service charges.

· South Mountain - This "park" includes more than 10,000 hiking acres that run along the ridge of South Mountain from Pen Mar to Weverton, linking other state parks and the Appalachian Trail.

Forty-one miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maryland run along the ridge of South Mountain, which borders Washington and Frederick counties. The Appalachian Trail is a 2,178-mile long footpath that extends from Maine to Georgia.

South Mountain was an obstacle to settlers until 1775, when George Washington and Gen. Edward Braddock had a road built over one of its passes.

South Mountain State Battlefield, which is in this park, marks the Sept. 14, 1862, battle that enabled Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to regroup his forces at Sharpsburg, where the Battle of Antietam was fought a few days later.

Camping is limited to shelters along the trail. The park offers no accessible facilities, but is open year-round.

· Washington Monument - This southern Washington County park is the site of the first monument built in honor of President George Washington.

The rugged 34-foot tall stone monument was dedicated to Washington by the citizens of Boonsboro on July 4, 1827.

"It has been said that as monuments go, none was ever built with purer or more reverent patriotism," according to the Department of Natural Resources Web site.

According to the Web site, most of the 500 residents of Boonsboro marched to the music of fife and drum two miles to the hilltop to begin building the monument on July 4, 1827. The tower was finished in the fall of that year.

Since the Cumberland Valley is a migratory bird flyaway, birdwatchers flock to the monument to count migrating hawks and eagles and to watch other birds.

Off Alternate U.S. 40, four miles east of Boonsboro on the county line, the park offers camping, picnicking, shelter and access to the Appalachian Trail.

The park offers a handicapped-accessible picnic area and museum. It also has a playground and shelters.

Information on the state parks was taken from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' Web site at www.dnr.state.md.us.

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