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For ATVs, park is field of dreams
  BUDDS CREEK, Md.--Just beyond the Harry W. Nice bridge, a quiet country road leads to what some refer to as an ATV lover's utopia.

It's called the Southern Maryland ATV Park, which began as an unlikely goal owner Rick Bolton was determined to reach.

The park, which opened to the public in April 2003, is the closest of its kind for ATV enthusiasts in the Fredericksburg area. Many aficionados say they wish more would pop up.

Every Friday through Sunday, engines roar as children and adults race down the dirt paths in the park's 300 acres.

Some of the tracks wind deep into the woods, while others sit in open land, just beyond a cornfield. The wooded trails offer steep hills and deep puddles that more experienced drivers can cruise through.

Years ago, many of the paths served as hunting trails. Now they're like highways for ATVs. And Bolton thinks of himself as the patrolman, chattering into his radio whenever he sees a problem.

In fact, Bolton makes sure a park employee rushes to the scene of an accident whenever one occurs. Friday was no different.

ATV rider Kevin Grooms tumbled off his vehicle when a wheel got caught in the mud. Grooms said he's thankful the park required him to a wear a helmet.

"I busted my head on the ground and I never even felt it," Grooms said. "I'm too old to take a fall like that."

If riders don't bring a helmet and protective eye gear, they must rent them from Bolton.

Bolton also has his employees occupy three watchtowers when the tracks are busy. Sometimes more than 100 people hit the trails on a busy day, he said.

And, much to the irritation of 6-year-old Coby Barker, not everyone comes to the park to act like a daredevil. Coby wasn't impressed by drivers who just plodded along.

"He didn't even jump," Coby said, pointing to an ATV trudging up a hill. "He's a baby."

On Friday, Coby stuck to a smaller track for younger drivers. His father, Tim Barker, sat on a park bench as he watched his two sons motor around.

"I like the controlled environment," he said. "I've been in some places were one person is going one way and another person is going another."

Mark Holland, who lives in Maryland, visited the park for the first time Friday. He and his 10-year-old son Cory ride ATVs in their spare time.

"Once my son was old enough to ride, I had to get back into it," Holland said. "There's nothin' like ridin' with your boy."

Cory, who had globs of mud stuck to his camouflage pants, said he enjoyed the park's well-marked trails, which always pointed him in the right direction. He noted that he's been in several accidents but isn't fazed by the danger.

"It's just fun riding, period," Cory said. "Getting a lot of air is fun. It's just like you've got one big family here."

Bolton said the park acts as a stress-free environment for parents who are concerned about safety.

"I think that's where some parents go wrong," he said. "They just let them loose out there."

Composed: 06/22/2004 | Modified: 06/22/2004

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