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Chance Meeting in Maryland State Park Leads to a Lifetime of Love
Couple met, fell in love and married in Gambrill State Park
THURMONT — Everyone knows that nature can inspire many things including art and music. Apparently, in Western Maryland, it can also inspire love. This Valentine’s Day, the Maryland Park Service (MPS) is sharing a story about one of its own who found the love of his life while working at Gambrill State Park, a pristine spot on Catoctin Mountain.
In 1977, Lt. Chuck Harris, Deputy Regional Manager for the Western Region, was a Park Ranger responsible for registering campers at Gambrill State Park. He became friendly with a couple often referred to as “regulars” at the park, Howard and Doris Ann Donovan. Howard would bring his family to the park every other weekend and Doris Ann began to bring a good friend for company and weekend enjoyment with their daughter. Ranger Harris always watched over their campsite “like family” as Mr. Donovan was a fellow enforcement officer who was often working on the weekends. Doris Ann’s friend, Patricia Menser would later become Mrs. Chuck Harris.
After more than four years of casual encounters with Patricia on weekends enjoying the scenery and splendor of Gambrill State Park, Lt. Harris finally decided to ask her on a date. Dating led to an engagement on Valentine’s Day of 1982 and a wedding on June 1 of that same year. More than 200 family and friends gathered at Gambrill State Park’s High Knob area for the couple’s reception.
“If it weren’t for my job with the Maryland Park Service, I may never have met Pat,” said Ranger Harris. “We moved 13 times in the first nine years of marriage to be near the State Park I was assigned to, and she’s followed me each time. From Smallwood and Greenbrier, to Chapel Point and even headquarters in Annapolis, I feel lucky in love and on the job.”
Since their reception in the Park, the couple settled in Myersville and had two children, Charlotte, 17, and Jimmy, 16. Both share their father’s love of the outdoors and have achieved the highest award in Girls Scouts and Boy Scouts, the Girl Scout Gold Award and the Eagle Scout respectively. Patricia is currently employed as senior vice president of Fidelity Bank in Hagerstown.
The MPS encourages all couples to take the opportunity this Valentine’s Day to visit a State Park. From breathtaking views and cascading frozen waterfalls, to cozy cabins and strolls through history, nothing is more romantic than the Maryland’s great outdoors. For more information and to find the State Park nearest you, visit ww.dnr.maryland.gov and click on “Parks & Forests.”
The Maryland Park Service (MPS) administers and manages Maryland’s parks, natural environment areas, natural resources management areas, and marinas. While providing recreation sites, the Service preserves natural resources and ensures multiple uses. The MPS is responsible for forty-nine state parks, seven natural environment areas, and twenty-three natural resource management areas.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 446,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 11 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov