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This idea has my stamp of approval

Walter Chow has a really cool hobby. Not just because it's stimulating and educational, but because what he collects doesn't cost him a cent. Chow collects stamps. More specifically, he collects National Park and Historic Monument stamps, which are stamped on with an old-fashioned inked stamper.

Back in 1986, the Snellville resident purchased a National Park Passport Book and gets it stamped at every national historic site he visits.

"I didn't get really serious about it until 1995," Chow said. "I discovered that if you plan well, you can get a lot of stamps in one trip. In Washington, D.C., you can get about 20."

Of course, there is some expense involved. As the price of gasoline increases, so does the cost of travel. Last year, Chow made a special trip to New York City to visit the newly opened African Burial Ground, hoping to be one of the first to get his passport stamped. Unfortunately, the stamp hadn't been designed yet.

This year, as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation, I thought it might be interesting to have stamps for our parks.

Instead of a plain circle with the place and date like the National Parks use, wouldn't it be even better if each park had a unique design displaying their diversity?

For example, Graves Park might feature a dog, since four-legged friends are welcome there. Offering fishing lakes, Collins Hill, Lenora, Rhodes Jordan and Tribble Mill parks might feature a fish.

Each park in Gwinnett offers something fun that could make a cool stamp. Bay Creek Park boasts a playground for special-needs children and Yellow River Park is filled with wildflowers. Bethesda Park houses the Senior Center, and Ronald Reagan Park is the only park featuring bocce courts.

A Freeman's Mill Park stamp might portray its gristmill, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. McDaniel Farm has an array of 1930s farm structures, and Little Mulberry Park could include on its stamp the park's mysterious rock piles featured along the trails. Holcomb Bridge and Jones Bridge parks could feature the scenic view of the Chattahoochee River. The symbol for Mountain Park Park might be a book, because it's located beside the library.

Other parks and recreation offerings include Pinckneyville Community Center, known for pottery and cultural arts, and the Lawrenceville Female Seminary, a site for many coffeehouse concerts.

There are 390 National Parks and Monuments. So far, Chow has stamps to prove he's visited 145 of them. There are 40 Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation sites. So far - and because they don't have stamps, you'll have to take my word for it - I've visited 26 of them. Can anyone out there top either record?

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.