July 22, 2002
There's a lot to discover at Cabin John Regional Park said Marian Stover, one of the naturalists at the park's Locust Grove Nature Center.
"The point of most of our exhibits is to inspire people to go out and discover more for themselves," said Stover.
The 500-acre Cabin John Regional Park is comprised of the nature center, nature trails, a small train with tracks through the woods, a playground, a large array of athletic facilities and a newly remodeled ice-skating rink that is open to the public.
To provide a visual idea of the park's size, Stover said, "The Cabin John Trail which runs by our front door [at the nature center] is actually nine miles long. It starts at Cabin John Local Park on MacArthur Boulevard and goes all the way to Goya Drive, near Montrose Road."
The Locust Grove Nature Center offers a variety of reservation-only nature camps and programs designed to teach the public about the area's local wildlife. Programs are offered for adults, teens, and children as young as two years of age.
Inside the nature center is a model White Oak tree exhibit that shows some of the area's forest wildlife. Children can push the pictures of different animals and hear their sounds. To the delight of youngsters, the woodpecker's sound comes from a speaker hidden inside the tree.
There is also a model of a rotting log designed to show children the various types of flora and fauna found underneath the bark.
"We keep animals here that are native and do well in captivity," said Stover. "Many reptiles and amphibians adapt well to cage life." The terrariums inside the center contain a corn snake, black rat snake, gray tree frogs, spotted salamanders, toads and freshwater fish from Cabin John Creek.
Cornelius, the congenial corn snake, also known as a red rat snake, is at least 14 years old and has never bitten anyone in his life, said Stover. Both Cornelius and Houdini, the black rat snake, are constrictors that are non-venomous and eat mainly small mammals.
"One of the reasons that we have snakes here is to show people that they're not vicious," said Stover.
In the park forest itself, visitors can see deer, red foxes, box turtles, bluebirds, woodpeckers, monarch butterflies and a variety of other species that they may not ordinarily find in their back yards.
In just a few minutes' drive, parents can transport their children to the park's extensive playground, which can be reached from both Westlake Drive and Tuckerman Lane. At the playground, more than a dozen sets of playground equipment can help keep energetic children occupied for hours.
"I like skateboarding in Cabin John Park," said 9-year-old Peter Bagheri.
At this area of the park, hikers and runners can also access several hiking paths that wind their way through the forest.
Hungry hikers and families can eat at the snack bar until 4:30 p.m. and take a sip from the hippo water fountain.
For those park visitors needing a rest in the shade, the train ride under the forest canopy is the perfect solution. "The train sounds good and we like to see the tracks," said Tillman Findley, who often visits the park with his fraternal twin brother Stirling, and his grandmother, Mickey Allardice of Potomac.
Patrick Lloyd, one of the train engineers and conductors, said that he has been working at the park for the past three years. "We do everything here — put the gas in, check the train, check the engine and the oil, sell the tickets — and sometimes we're engineers. We all rotate around," he said. "It's a seasonal job and it's fun when you're retired. You don't have to be a nuclear engineer to understand how to do this job."
Train station and snack bar manager Eddie Noyes said he likes working at the train station because, "It's nice to see the kids and everyone else enjoying the train. We have people come by to paint the train and take photos all the time." Noyes is a 22-year-old college student studying geography and geographic information systems at the University of Maryland.
"We get to be out in nature and be out in the weather," said Noyes.
With so many things to do at Cabin John Regional Park, "I think the park is a real treasure," said Stover. "A lot of people don't realize this much park land is here."