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Walking club, nearly 20, in search of new members


THIS MONTH's CVC Pathways, the readable, monthly bulletin of the Columbia Volksmarch Club, carried a distressing note - one that probably typifies the times.

"We have had some exploratory discussions regarding merger with other clubs," wrote John Dye, the recreational walking club's president for three years. "Unless we get some more involvement, we may have no alternatives."

CVC's annual election of four officers comes up in a couple of weeks, but Dye pointed out that the club has operated without a secretary for the past year and that two incumbents for other offices were not seeking re-election.

"Frankly, we need new blood," Dye wrote. "Basically the same half-dozen people have been running the club for about four years, and it's time to get others involved."

Since he wrote that, Dye said in an interview, some newer faces have stepped up, and the coming year seemingly won't be the end, after all. He expects to serve another year as president, although he said, "I'd prefer someone take over, but I don't think that's going to happen. ... You know how it goes with volunteers; they wear out over time."

The club, approaching 20 years old, once had about 120 member families and was drawing 1,000 or more walkers from other Middle Atlantic clubs to weekend events throughout Howard County. It was one of Maryland's largest clubs. Julian Bauer, a Long Reach village resident who helped found CVC, became the national organization's president.

But CVC membership has slipped to 70 families, Dye said, and even the most attractive routes the club uses typically draw 300 or 400. The decline parallels experiences in walking clubs nationally, Dye said.

"We're not really sure why the numbers are down. But the source of new walkers seems to be drying up. We're just fighting so many other activities," Dye said. "People are busy."

Volksmarching (it means "people's walk" in German) isn't competitive, except for dealing with terrain and weather. But walking 10- or 5-kilometer trails that vary from Baltimore's Inner Harbor to Southern Maryland marshland to Columbia pathways to the Appalachian Trail in all kinds of weather is terrific exercise, physically and mentally.

Volksmarching was introduced in this country by Defense Department personnel returning home from Germany, where the recreation form began. Clubs define temporary trails. The idea is to peg each trail to something scenic, historic, topical or otherwise interesting.

The club has not only used most of Columbia's 80-some miles of paved pathways, but it also helped define trails in the county's Rockburn Branch and Savage parks. The latter has an overlook dedicated to the Columbia club which provides a woodsy, near-sheer river view that's startling.

The first of three CVC summer walks is coming up, if you would like to try a walk.

The club will hike the perimeter of the lawsuit-entangled Smith estate between Oakland Mills and Long Reach villages June 23. The start point - you must start between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. - will be the Locust Park Neighborhood Center.

Information: 410-313-8499 or e-mail

Clippers seniors

The Columbia Clippers' swim club is honoring six high school seniors - the largest such group of swimmers in the club's 14-year history. All six also will be the first recipients of the new Clegg Memorial Scholarship, which includes a book stipend at the college of their choice. Alphabetically, those honored and college plans:

Kate Balcerzak, River Hill High School. Clipper for nine years; Maryland All-Star Team meet three years. Fordham University.

Andrew Clegg, Wilde Lake. Competitive swimmer seven years; Maryland All-Star Team in each. Outstanding Maryland 15-18-year-old male swimmer, 2000 long-course season. Holds three Clippers records. UMBC.

Cristina Gonzalez, Centennial. Competitive swimmer five years, the last two as a Clipper and Maryland All-Star Meet qualifier. National Hispanic Merit Scholar finalist; recipient of a merit scholarship at Boston University.

Rachel Lazarick, Oakland Mills. Competitive swimmer since she was 6; 11 years on Clippers. Made two Maryland All-Star Teams and ranked in state top five when she was in 11-12 and 13-14 competition. Lacrosse player, too. Will swim for Salisbury State.

Katie Mazzarella, Hammond. Nine years with Clippers, three-time Maryland All-Star Team member. Holds two Clipper records. Syracuse University honors program.

Chris Pearson, Howard. Competed nine years, including the last two Junior National Championships and this spring's Senior National Championships. Individual men's champion at the inaugural Eastern Zone Sectional Championships. Holds numerous Clipper records. Eagle Scout. National Merit Scholarship semifinalist. Will swim at Carnegie Mellon University.

The Clegg scholarships honor Andrew's late father ("Playing Around," March 18), a swimming supporter who died unexpectedly at 52 last year.

Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or address e-mail to

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