- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 10, 2001

The possibilities for fun seemingly are endless on a visit to Montgomery Countys Wheaton Regional Park.

Families can stake out places on the broad expanse of lawn, dotted with shade trees, or in picnic pavilions complete with grills. Parents can let their children run wild and free on the magnificent playground. Those who need a little peace and quiet will breathe a sigh of relief as they stroll through the 50-acre Brookside Gardens.

Wheaton Park, bordered by Georgia Avenue to the west and Kemp Mill Road to the east, encompasses 536 forested acres in the heart of Wheaton, not too far from Wheaton Plaza shopping center. It truly has something for nearly everyone: a carousel and miniature train ride, ball fields, horseback riding and year-round in-line and ice skating. Park goers can fish in the 5-acre Pine Lake, tour the botanical gardens, attend a nature program or tramp through the woods.

For families, Wheaton Park can be enjoyed equally as a one-hour diversion or an all-day outing.

Enter at the Shorefield Road entrance off Georgia Avenue, which leads to a parking lot abutting the carousel and miniature train. (Save on aggravation and get there early. We arrived about 10:30 a.m. on a spring Saturday, and the park already was teeming with people. When we departed several hours later, the lot was full, with many cars circling.)

The carousel and miniature train ride were closed for repairs the day we visited, evoking howls of disappointment from our young children. Carolyn D. Wainwright, the community services supervisor for the Department of Park and Planning in Montgomery County, says the carousel will be in operation daily for the summer season. She says she believes the train will not be working at all this summer but that parents should call ahead for the daily schedule.

Just beyond the two rides lies Adventure Playground. An adventure it is, too for young and old alike. The playground features a gigantic wood play structure from which two long, winding tube slides descend. There are wooden cars, ladders, tires and forts.

Deb and Kirk Taylor, munching sandwiches on the sidelines, say they like to bring their son, 2-year-old Kevin, to Wheaton park four or five times a year from their home in Laurel.

"We go to a lot of parks, but nothing that has quite the amount of this stuff," Mr. Taylor says. "When the carousel and train are running, it is probably the best one."

"It´s a great park for playing, and the price is right," his wife adds.

Dennis and Kathy Elliott have brought their 4-year-old triplets, Alicia, Michael and Kristina, from their home in Potomac for a first-time visit.

"This place has more sets of different equipment than Cabin John and is more spread out," Mrs. Elliott says.

"In some ways it´s more kid-friendly," Mr. Elliott adds. "Overall, I think Montgomery County does a good job with its parks; they´re clean and accessible your tax dollars at work, I guess."

Once the children are ready to move on, visitors can take one of the nearby paths downhill toward Brookside Gardens. The peace of the gardens is a welcome break from the frenzy of the playground.

Once through the garden gates, park goers can stroll the footpaths or feel the grass beneath their feet. Going barefoot is not a good idea, however, because geese call Brookside Gardens home, and they use the grass as their bathroom. Parents also might want to keep their children from rolling downhill in the grass.

The gardens contain sculptures of rocks and steel, a pagoda overlooking a small pond, and thousands of plants and trees, from the weeping Higan cherry to the European hornbeam to the Korean mountain ash.

Interestingly, our children did not want to leave the quiet of the gardens to return to the playground but wished instead to run up and down the slopes, searching for the white tufts of goose down wisping along the grass. It was a nice conclusion to a very pleasant morning.

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