On Saturday, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources celebrated its fifth annual Park Quest event with Rendevous activities for the teams that completed at least 10 quests. Knisely, who helps run the popular event, discussed its origins and goals.

How has the Park Quest program grown in its five years in number of participants, parks and activities?

Park Quest was developed by two Maryland state park managers in 2008. The program included six quests on Maryland's Eastern Shore, and approximately 150 teams (families) participated. The program has expanded to include 1,000 teams and 24 quests in the 2012 Park Quest program.

Teams are comprised of adults and children with a maximum of 10 members. Each team must include at least one child 16 years of age or younger to qualify as a Park Quest team.

The goal of Park Quest is to engage families in outdoor activities throughout the summer and allow them to experience state parks throughout Maryland.

Park Quest allows families to relax, unplug from today's various methods of technology, and experience the beautiful natural and cultural resources that our public lands offer.

Are there any plans to expand the program?

At this time, there are no plans to expand the program. By registering for Park Quest, teams are provided a passport that allows them complimentary day-use entry to 23 state parks. There was one online quest this year to bring the total to 24 quests.

Teams are afforded a valuable opportunity to explore state parks across Maryland. We know teams also pay for cabins and campsites as an affordable mini-vacation in order to extend and take advantage of their state park experience.

The Maryland Park Service accommodates approximately 11 million guests each year, and our operational and maintenance budgets are predicated on our abilities to raise revenues through day-use, camping and pavilion service charges.

These revenues are used directly to support amenities, infrastructure, outdoor recreation opportunities, and staffing to support the operation of Maryland's 66 state parks.

It is important to note that families who were not able to register for Park Quest still participated in the program. Any visitor to the 23 participating Maryland state parks could download the Park Quest activities from the Maryland Park Service website and complete the quests.

These families only had to pay the appropriate day-use service charge. The Maryland Park Service had many inquiries from families throughout the summer who participated as a result of our Park Quest website and Facebook presence, and who were not able to officially register.

The only difference is that families who were not registered Park Quest teams were not eligible to participate in the Park Quest Rendezvous celebration.

What was the most popular park this season, and what was the most popular activity?

The most popular Park Quest this summer was the Gathland State Park quest, where families explored the grounds of the former estate of George Alfred Townsend, a famous Civil War correspondent and author.

Families responded to questions about the history of this site, based on their explorations of the grounds, and some participated in a bonus quest nearby with a hike to the historic Appalachian Trail shelter.

Other popular quests included the search for Big Foot at Greenbrier State Park, kayaking at Janes Island State Park, riding bikes on the historic Western Maryland Rail Trail, and hiking near breathtaking rock outcroppings at Rocks State Park.

The activities seemed to be geared toward families with young children. Is there any thought of trying to include more seniors without their grandkids?

Park Quest is a multi-generational program, and many of the Park Quest teams included grandparents of the participating youngsters.

The Maryland Park Service has received inquiries from adults inquiring about a program for senior citizens who do not have grandchildren. At this time the Maryland Park Service does not have plans to create a program solely for seniors, but may consider this as an expansion option in the future.

How many families qualified for the drawings Saturday and how many families made it to every park?

We encouraged families to post their completed quests using our online Park Quest leader board. Based on that documentation, approximately 275 teams completed 10 or more quests to qualify for participation in the Park Quest Rendezvous at Patapsco Valley State Park.

Based on the online Park Quest leader board, 20 teams completed all 24 quests.

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