Since 1985, July has been declared National Parks and Recreation Month by the National Recreation and Park Association.
For residents of Carroll County, the designation is another signal that it's a great time to take advantage of the many outdoor facilities both the county and local municipalities offer.
"It's a good to get outside," said Jeff Degitz, administrator for the Carroll County Recreation and Parks, citing fitness and social benefits as well as learning more about the environment and world. "I encourage everyone to come out and hit the trails and use our parks."
Several special programs are being offered by both the county and City of Westminster to encourage people to enjoy the outdoors. The offerings are the result of some get-togethers, sharing of ideas and evaluating past suggestions.
"We get together and brainstorm," said Kristi Turgeon, administrator coordinator for Westminster's Department of Recreation and Parks. "What kind of stuff went well? Anything we want to change? Anything new we can bring?"
As a result of the brainstorming, the city offers an activity every day, from free snow cones at Locust Lane Park on Wednesdays, to free Zumba and yoga classes. While last year's outside movie night had some issues, they decided to give it another try this year, she said.
"We had some snags with lighting in the park," Turgeon said. "We tested it out and did some reconfiguration of the screen."
Both the city and the county encourage people to take selfies of themselves in a park and submit them for a possible prize. Carroll rec will select a different selfie every week to put on its website.
All selfies submitted to Carroll County will be mixed together for a drawing to win two free tickets to Hershey Park. Westminster will also select a winning selfie.
Carroll County's Ball Park Pursuit contest is back for the month of July. Families are encouraged to register as a team to receive a booklet to fill out as they visit different parks and complete the required tasks.
"We've had a very good response, over 100 families the last couple of years," Degitz said. "It makes for some interesting encounters in the parks when you see people doing different positions."
New this year for the county is a 10-question Recreation and Parks quiz, Degitz said.
"We don't want to tax anyone out. We know it is summer," Degitz said. "It's a brief quiz, only 10 questions. It's part trivial and part educational to learn more about the parks."
All quizzes with the same amount of correct answers will be mixed together for a drawing to win two tickets to Kings Dominion.
Pizza Hut is hosting Pizza for Parks, a fundraiser for the Carroll County Recreation and Parks' Park Legacy Fund, on July 30. From 5 to 9 p.m., all Pizza Huts around the county will offer a percentage of their sales to the park fund.
"We are very excited all the different franchises were in agreement and are excited about the partnership," Degitz said. "We are appreciative to have Pizza Hut as a willing participant."
A sidewalk chalk art contest will complete the activities for Westminster on July 31. Young artists ages 5 to 12 can register to decorate a sidewalk square in front of a local business. The city will provide the chalk and award prizes.
Both the city and the county, along with the Department of Human Services of Carroll County, is offering Sundays in the Park during the month of July. This is the 20th year for the free concerts in Westminster City Park, Degitz said.
"It is great family entertainment and the price is right," Degitz said. "We encourage everyone to bring donations, either monetary or canned food items. It helps them [Human Services] and all the great things they do."
So whether one is taking a selfie in a park, enjoying music or eating a snow cone, there should be plenty of opportunities in the county for residents to get outdoors and celebrate National Recreation and Parks Month.
"We hope everybody comes out and has fun in the parks," Turgeon said. "We have some great stuff going on."
For a complete list of activities and programs for Carroll County Recreation and Parks, go to http://www.ccgovernment.carrorg/ccg/recpark/ or call 410-386-2103.
For a complete list of activities and programs for Westminster, go to http://www.westgov.com/142/Recreation-Parks or call 410-751-5501.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun