At 5:45 a.m., everything is quiet at Northwest Regional Park in Owings Mills, and that's how Jim Jones likes it.
"I get here at sunrise every day and open the gates," said Jones, operations manager for the 88-acre park that has worked to make itself a community fixture since opening in September. "Everything's very still, there's usually a mist in the air, and you get a real feel for nature."
Jones oversees everything that goes on at the park, from opening to closing. He sees its serenity as the best remedy to the fast pace of everyday life in one of Baltimore County's fastest-growing areas.
"This land used to be privately owned, and it was due to be developed," said Jones, who has lived in Owings Mills for 13 years, "but the community and myself got involved and all the planned development for the space fell through.
"Now we have this beautiful park and people have nothing but good things to say about it."
Northwest Regional Park features four baseball diamonds, three multipurpose athletic fields, three picnic pavilions, a playground and a walking trail.
"Owings Mills is such a hustle-bustle area," said John Eubank, facility manager and community supervisor for the park, "and to come to a place like this is so unique. You can just get away."
By midmorning, however, the faint noise of construction can be heard in the distance.
"That's the new Baltimore Ravens headquarters being built," Eubank said, referring to the nearby $20 million office and training complex. "They just finished the service road and from the sound of it, things are moving along over there."
Robert Barrett, director of the county Department of Recreation and Parks, said the Ravens hope to move in next spring.
"They've got about 30 acres over there," Barrett said. "They're going to end up with five fields, state-of-the-art workout facilities and offices."
Northwest Park was made possible with the help of Program Open Space, a state initiative designed to acquire land for public use that thus far has provided $6 million for planning and development.
According to the state Department of Natural Resources, more than 31,000 acres have been acquired for local park use since the program's inception. "We've got 1,600 different programs that use our parks," Barrett said. "By the numbers, we've got more people go through our parks each day than visit the Grand Canyon."
Northwest Park has done a lot for the community since its opening, Jones said.
"There's no question about it, this park is a good thing," he said. "The fact that it brings the community together in such a way is great."
"You've got the joggers, the people bicycling, the children on the tot lot and, of course, all of the sports programs," Jones said. "Lacrosse, soccer, early football camps and the baseball programs from Owings Mills and Liberty Road."
Ben Caplan is president of the Owings Mills Baseball League and has nothing but praise for the park.
"The fields were so well-kept," Caplan said. "With all the rain, they seemed to be the ones who always had the fields ready and in playing condition."
Jones said that while the workload can be heavy, it's made easier by those who use the park.
"People really take pride in this park," Jones said. "The community has really helped out and they all seem to want to keep up the place."