In 2012, CNN/Money Magazine ranked Ellicott City and Columbia in Howard County as one of the top ten places to live in the entire country.  Since that award, our neighbor to the west has continued to win a number of other awards and accolades that relate to being a “Best Place to Live.” In making their determinations, the awarding entities often cite Howard County’s numerous parks (45 in all, with a total of more than 7,000 acres) and access to high quality, diverse recreational opportunities as major factors for their selection. 

For Baltimore County’s part, we have plenty to boast about too.  While Baltimore County’s total acreage is less than that of Howard’s (6,600 acres of total parkland), with 190 parks, there is a park (or more) in just about every neighborhood in Baltimore County. 

As with Howard County, Baltimore County affords its residents diverse and numerous recreational opportunities.  Indeed, recreational opportunities in Baltimore County are as varied as the landscape; just as our landscape ranges from urban to forested and farm to waterfront, Baltimore County’s recreational offerings include everything from sailing to indoor soccer, gardening to therapeutic horseback riding. 

How do you find programs that are of interest and available to you?  Having quality programming in Baltimore County can be made even better when access is easy and streamlined for our residents – an important lesson gleaned from the accolades given to Howard County in the recreation space and a real opportunity for our County. 

What might these improvements to Baltimore County’s recreational opportunities look like?  Two suggestions to ensure our programs are as good as they can be – and more accessible to all of our residents – are below: 

  • Provide a central listing of program opportunities. Currently, recreation programs are found by searching through individual recreation councils. Baltimore County’s recreation councils are broken into four regions plus special program areas.  Each region contains multiple recreation councils each with its own program offerings. While this contributes greatly to our diversity of program offerings, it can make finding a program that’s a fit for you a challenge. 
  • Make use of a web-based database for program registration and shared participant information.  This year, the Catonsville Recreation Council began making use of an online registration platform for its programs and participants.  The system has streamlined the collection of information and registration fees for the program leaders and the participants alike.  In a time when the most complex of transactions can be made entirely over the internet, the utilization of an online registration system could be a true benefit to our recreational programming.  An added benefit of a shared system would be that participants could have registrations for multiple recreation programs streamlined into one place.  Coupled with a clearing house of recreational opportunities, we would be opening up and encouraging participation in all that Baltimore County has to offer to its citizens in a way that continues to support and encourage local recreation councils to lead in what and how programs are offered.

Have you participated in a recreation council?  Did you play a sport or take part in a non-competitive recreational offering?  Was it a council near you, or did you find opportunities that fit your interests in other regions of the county?  What have you enjoyed about recreational opportunities in Baltimore County?  What suggestions do you have to make a good recreation system in Baltimore County even better?  

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