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By James Hedrick, Commissioner, The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission

Montgomery Parks Summer Adventure Challenge with Kids

I don’t know anything about parks.

I’m a Commissioner on the Montgomery County side of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), and I really don’t know anything about parks.

My background is in affordable housing and development – the planning side of the Commission. Most of what I know about parks is limited to about a decade of taking my kids to parks hoping that they will wear themselves out before bedtime.

Given my need to expand my knowledge of Montgomery County’s parks system, the Commission’s August recess offered a good opportunity to become more familiar with at least a few of the county’s over 400 parks.

With a little help from my kids – Thing 1 (age 9), Thing 2 (age 5), and Thing 3 (age 2) – we decided to take the Montgomery Parks Summer Adventure Challenge. Designed as a parks-related scavenger hunt to help residents discover new places within the parks system, it seemed tailor-made to further my parks education.

And tire my kids out.

Toddler wearing a bike helmet in a bike trailer

I wanted to start by going to a new park we had never been to before (see the Summer Adventure Challenge’s “Discover” theme). So, early in August, Thing 3 and I loaded up the bike trailer and set off from my neighborhood of Twinbrook to Edith Throckmorton Neighborhood Park.

We never made it. Despite having three kids, I failed to anticipate my toddler’s shocking lack of patience. Turns out that toddlers aren’t great at delaying gratification and really don’t like passing three or four other parks while not being allowed to play at ALL OF THEM.

Choosing to see this as a celebration of the quality and quantity of Montgomery County’s parks rather than poor planning on my part, Thing 3 and I stopped about halfway along our planned route at Dewey Local Park.

child walking past Dewey Local Park wooden sign

Dewey is, as it says, a local park. Not unlike a couple hundred other parks in the Montgomery County Parks system. It has multiple play structures, a covered picnic area, two dog parks (large and small breeds), an outdoor exercise machine area, a soccer field, and a street hockey rink. Having all those amenities at a “local” park is just one reason Montgomery Parks wins national awards every year.

Oh, and did I mention Dewey Local Park has murals? Because it has MURALS.

Long story short, Thing 3 and I stopped at a random local park that we didn’t even intend to go to and had a wonderful time. It was an excellent start to our Summer Adventure Challenge.

Over the next several weeks, our family explored a variety of parks throughout Montgomery County. Our oldest is an ice skater, so we stopped by the Wheaton Ice Arena. She also had a summer camp there, so make sure to check out Montgomery County summer camps next year if you have kids.

Girl on ice rink at Wheaton Ice Arena

Thing 2 is a climber, and she’d be upset if I didn’t include a picture of her, so here’s one from Aurora Hills Local Park.

Girl on playground equipment

At one point, I even managed to get all the kids standing still long enough to take a picture with me at the Adventure Playground in Germantown, so that was nice.

Man and children standing in front of Adventure Playground sign

In the end, our family managed to check off most of the things on our list, though I never did get the video edited and posted, and I’m counting hide and seek as a sport.  But we had a lot of fun, and we learned a few things, at least I did. I may not be a parks expert, but I know a couple more things than I did before the Summer Adventure Challenge. Next year, we’ll do it again.

James Hedrick
About the author
James Hedrick has spent his career working in community development and affordable housing. He completed his PhD in Political Science at Rice University in 2017 and has degrees in both public policy and anthropology from American University and the University of Texas, respectively. Before being appointed to the Planning Board, Dr. Hedrick was an affordable housing consultant, a community college professor, and a long-time federal employee. He previously served on the board of the Action Committee for Transit (ACT), the steering committee for Montgomery for All, and the board of the Twinbrook Community Association, as well as serving as the Chair of Rockville Housing Enterprises (RHE), Rockville’s public housing authority. He lives in the Twinbrook neighborhood of Rockville, MD with his wife and three kids.

2 Responses to “Kids in Tow”

  1. Virginia Wiedenfeld

    Great article, James! It made me laugh! Keep visiting those parks with your children!

  2. Brian Lewandowski

    This is awesome. I am glad you enjoyed this. This is the reason why my section (PDD) looks forward to working on these projects. Every one is different, unique, and challenging, and in the end, the rewards are evident.