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A World of Fun in Prince George's County

By Avis Thomas-Lester
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 21, 2005; Page PG03

Are you prone to sitting around soaking up the sun on a summer afternoon? Likely to while away a winter day channel-surfing? Haven't been on a stimulating hike or riveting boat ride in years, if ever? Are you basically lazy?

If so, Prince George's County has the cure for your couch-potato blues. From Beltsville to Brandywine, there are activities galore seven days a week: jazz concerts at Montpelier Cultural Arts Center in Laurel, plays at the Publick Playhouse for the Performing Arts in Cheverly, arts and crafts courses at the Glenn Dale Recreation Center, swimming lessons at the Allentown Fitness and Splash Park in Fort Washington.

Collin Rager takes an autumn walk with his uncle Bobby Rager on one of the many bicycle paths in Prince George's County, this one along Decatur Road in West Lanham Hills. (Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Po St)

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The county's 485-square-mile expanse is rich with hiking trails, bicycle paths and hundreds of byways ideal for taking long, slow walks or brisk rides to stir the heart rate. For swimmers, there are opportunities to be in the water 12 months a year, whether for classes or recreational swimming. Those who like ball sports will find gyms where they can join a pickup basketball game or sign up their kids for instructional leagues. The more unusual sports, such as aqua kickboxing, street hockey, ice skating, archery and skeet shooting, are also readily available.

Activities include First Tee Youth Golf and "Bubblers" swimming for young children; organized scrapbooking; floral and interior design for homemakers; African aerobics and Tae Bo for the very athletically inclined; and, for the elderly, weight training and "Magic for Grandparents," offered at the Langley Park Senior Center.

Craig Kellstrom, public affairs specialist for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission's Department of Parks and Recreation, said that the county aims to have something for everyone, which is the slogan of the department.

"We have too many things to offer for you to stay inside your house," he said. "We have such a variety of recreational offerings that there is virtually something for everyone."

The county has a total of 40 recreation centers, 13 in the northern area, which stretches roughly from the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to the Montgomery County line, and from the District line to Howard County; 13 in the central area, which runs from the parkway to just below Central Avenue; and 14 centers in the southern area.

There are also four special senior centers: the Camp Springs Senior Center, the Cora B. Wood Senior Center in Brentwood, the Langley Park Senior Center in Hyattsville and the Evelyn Cole Senior Center in Seat Pleasant. These centers specialize in programs for older residents, such as aqua arthritis exercises and deep-water aerobics for those 55 and older, and beginning piano, golf and tennis for those 60 and older.

The parks and recreation department's programs have been honored five times by the National Sports Foundation with the National Gold Medal award between 1977 and 2003, Kellstrom said. The award is given to agencies in recognition of "parks and recreation management at its best," he said.

"It has to do with the types of facilities we have, how they are managed, the variety of programming -- the diversified programs that we offer," Kellstrom said. "It was just the overall picture of how Park and Planning operates its programs, facilities and the recreational opportunities offered to the public."

More than 102,500 people registered for at least one Park and Planning program last year, Kellstrom said. Enrollment increased after the agency implemented automated registration last year with its SMARTlink program. The county mails out catalogs with new offerings three times a year, in May, August and December. Offerings are also detailed on Park and Planning's Web site, www.pgparks.com.

Officials said that swimming is among the most popular activities.

"The pools are very well attended, both the seasonal pools and, in the offseason, the indoor pools," Kellstrom said. The indoor pools include the Allentown Fitness and Splash Park in Fort Washington, which also has an outdoor pool; the Fairland Sports and Aquatics Complex in Laurel; the Rollingcrest-Chillum Splash Pool in Chillum; the Glenarden-based Theresa Banks Complex, which has a heated 25-yard pool with a wave-generating machine; the Wayne K. Curry Sports & Learning Complex in Landover, which also has a nifty aquatics area with a water slide and fountains; and the Bickford Natatorium at Prince George's Community College in Largo.

The outdoor pools include the Ellen Linson Swimming Pool in College Park, the Glenn Dale Splash Park, the J. Franklyn Bourne Memorial Pool in Seat Pleasant, the Hamilton Pool in Hyattsville, the Lane Manor Splash Park in Hyattsville and the North Barnaby Pool in Oxon Hill.

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