In Quiet Waters Park
Quiet Waters Park
---the name itself is inviting. "It's a wonderful place to come,"
says Michael Murdoch, superintendent of the park since its creation
12 years ago. "This is a place where you can take a deep breath
and get away from what's going on. You can feel a temperature
change---in the summer, the temperatures in the park are a couple
of degrees cooler than the paved areas of the buildings and parking
lots downtown." And in the winter? Murdoch says, "I think it's
a little bit warmer because of the trees."
As though to enhance the invitation, Murdoch adds, "I also love
the idea that we're not sports-oriented. This is not a competitive
place. What I like about the park is that people come with the
intent of having a good time---their demeanor changes---they know
they need to slow down." The 15 mph speed limit suggests to the
many visitors that "slow and relaxed" is exactly what's expected
Murdoch speaks fondly of those visiting the park, especially the
repeat visitors. "We have two or three groups of people that come
almost every day with their families and friends, both human and
animal. I've seen their children grow up---it's a wonderful feeling
and a nice way to come to work."
Murdoch admits, however, that he never imagined being here all
these years. "Not that I expected to come and go," he says "but
[these days] you don't expect to have the same job for so long."
Murdoch has had other opportunities and promotion offers come
his way. "But," he says, "I love the people who work here." To
assist Murdoch in his responsibilities, there is a staff of five
park rangers, two full-time and five part-time maintenance people,
an office manager and assistant, and the gate attendants---"a
rather small staff to accommodate over 500,000 visits a year,"
says Murdoch. "I like to think that the staff and the programs
here help to make [the park] a wonderful place."
This summer, in fact, is the first full season using the new concert
pavilion, where a series of 12 very diverse performances will
be presented. Says Murdoch, "Our concert series music is eclectic
and a little different from what everyone else has. We have some
regional artists who play here and come back every year just because
they love [the venue.]" Those who have attended summer evenings
of music picnicking on the broad expanse of lawn would agree that
the setting is a special one.
Despite the notion many of us have about the life of a park superintendent,
Murdoch says, "Most people may think my job takes place outside.
Unfortunately, I'm in the office most of the time. I have to make
a point to try to get out and walk around the park." You may see
Murdoch walking the grounds with his dog, "not as a watchman,"
he says "but to get exercise and gain a wider perspective."
The "wider perspective" Murdoch is seeking can trace its early
beginnings to his childhood in rural North Carolina. Son of a
farmer/ longshoreman, Murdoch worked summers on a tobacco farm.
He recalls his college days studying parks and recreation at East
Carolina University when he attended the very first Earth Day
festival. "That kind of turned me around to the environment,"
he says. "I had always been very sympathetic to nature and [was
moved by] Rachel Carson's The Silent Spring and all the
things that were happening during the '60s and '70s."
Later, Murdoch returned to graduate school for a master's degree
in parks and recreation administration. "It was there that I committed
myself to the environment and became actively involved in the
Sierra Club." Later, in South Carolina, Murdoch formed a new group
to address coastal environmental issues dealing with the protection
of wetlands and marshes. In his present position as resource manager,
Murdoch says, "I'm very concerned about the overconsumption of
resources---overuse and misuse of what we have. There are some
places in the world we should not mark. We have to protect our
Quiet Waters Park is composed of 336 acres of woodlands and open
space. Says Murdoch, "It is not a wilderness, not a virgin forest.
There have been farms and homes here. People have lived on this
property for 200 years or more. We actually have more woods now
that in the recent past. If you look at our maps, you'll see that
we've reforested more than there was 100 years ago."
But there's more to Murdoch than his deep concern for the environment.
"I'm an art lover and a nature lover, too," says Murdoch. Perhaps
in an attempt to be even closer to the things he values, he has
filled his office with both nature and art. A giant turtle carved
in African stone sits at his feet. More sculptures of animals
are placed thoughtfully on the window sill, perhaps to gain a
view to the park grounds.
Sharing Murdoch's interests is his wife, Deede Miller. "She's
from North Carolina, too. We re-met at our 20th high school reunion.
We had both been married before, loved art and nature, and were
concerned about the earth and the environment." And, when the
chance came their way, they both loved the idea of living and
working in the new Quiet Waters Park. Murdoch saw the opportunity
as an "open palette" for his talents and interests. They live
in a home designed in the original park plan to house the superintendent
so that he or she would have a greater interest in and proximity
to the management of the complex park systems.
There were some disadvantages, though. Murdoch recalls a childhood
stage, when his two young sons felt awfully isolated. "It was
like having a front door a mile and a quarter away. Going next
door to their friends' house wasn't so easy. I'm not sure my kids
appreciated [the park] until a little bit later." These days,
Murdoch is busy teaching his new granddaughter Maggie about the
park. He has even planted a native southern magnolia in her name.
When asked about the problems that come along with residing on
the grounds, Murdoch replies, "Occasionally there is someone who
shouldn't be in here overnight, but we have very little vandalism."
But the legitimate visitors to the park are important to Murdoch---even
today's unexpected arrival at the Visitor's Center, a woman upset
at having lost her dog during a walk by the water. "I'm on duty
all the time," says Murdoch. "Anything can happen here and, if
anything happens in the park, I feel like it's my responsibility-the
people and the animals." Murdoch admits to some criticism accompanying
the applause for his efforts. But, he says, "I wouldn't be here
if I didn't love it---I love the park and the people who come
Quiet Waters Park was recently acknowledged and awarded by landscape
architects to be one of the 200 most unique places in the United
States. But Murdoch replies more modestly when he says, "I work
in the best place in Anne Arundel County."