New ranger enjoys Downs Park prelude

Monday is the official beginning of spring, the season of new growth and change. For Bill Offutt, the new ranger at Downs Park, the season got an early start three weeks ago when his son, Scott, was born.

"Babies keep you busy," Mr. Offutt said. "They're not on the same schedule we're on."


Since being introduced to fatherhood, Mr. Offutt also has been ++ introduced to Pasadena. He transferred from Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis to Downs Park a week ago.

"I know Pasadena. I looked forward to coming down here -- going up, rather," he said, correcting his geography.


The 32-year-old ranger began his road to Pasadena at Western Maryland College, in Westminster, as an English major in the ROTC. He graduated and served four years in the Army. Using the GI Bill to study forestry at West Virginia University, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1989.

"I started with the county in August of '89 with the B & A Trail," he said. "In July of '90 I transferred and was one of the original people to open Quiet Waters Park."

He likes his job, describing himself as a jack-of-all-trades.

"You run the gamut, like doing nature hikes, some law enforcement, maintenance and working with the Boy and Girl Scouts and volunteers," he said. "I always liked the outdoors and working with people."

A wrestler and football player at Western Maryland College, Mr. Offutt says he now enjoys less competitive sports.

"I enjoy all sorts of outdoor activities like whitewater-rafting, kayaking, backpacking, camping and hiking," he said.

In fact, Mr. Offutt is hoping to arrange a sea kayaking clinic for summer, "if the sponsor can get here."

"They have to haul all the kayaks and other equipment," he said.


Downs Park already has arranged the popular summer concert series.

"It's set to run from Memorial Day to the end of September," said Ranger Dennis Cloutier, who schedules the park calendar. "It will feature music from all walks of life, from German oompah to jazz to bluegrass."

The concerts are at the Bayside Theatre next to the information building and begin between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Sundays.

The "Signs of Spring" nature walk will be held March 27 at 2 p.m. "We'll search for the elusive signs and anything that gives a hint of spring," Mr. Cloutier says.

An Easter sunrise service will be conducted at the Bayside Theatre April 3 at 6:15 a.m. The interdenominational service will be led by the Rev. Charles Harvey.

On Saturday, April 9, the Baltimore Astronomical Society will hold a Star Party. At 7:30 p.m., astronomy buffs can meet behind the Information Center and focus on Venus and Jupiter.


Downs Park is also planning its second annual Spring Craft Fair for April 23. "We'll have all kinds of crafts. Over 50 exhibitors have signed on," said Mr. Cloutier.

A new boating course begins on April 25. The beginner's class covers boating safety, rules and traffic regulations. Courses also will be offered in May, June and July.

And amateur photo buffs can start sorting through their favorite shots of the Arundel Olympic Swim Center, the B & A Trail, Downs Park, Eisenhower Golf Course, Joe Cannon Stadium, Jug Bay Wetlands, Lake Waterford, Londontown Publik House & Gardens or Quiet Waters Park for the annual photography contest sponsored by the county Department of Recreation and Parks.

The contest is from May 15 to July 15.

For information, call Downs Park at 222-6230.