Developing community parks throughout West County is preferable to building a large recreational facility on Fort Meade land that was transferred last fall to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.
That's the opinion of a 13-member committee which has studied the issue of parkland in West County for the last 10 months. The committee reported yesterday that the county already owns more than 500 acres scattered from Crofton to Linthicum that could be used for ball fields and other activities.
Although committee members acknowledged that some land on abandoned Fort Meade firing ranges would be suitable for a park, a majority of the panel is "totally opposed" to developing a major regional facility there.
"Some recreational opportunities exist on the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center," the report said. "However, any such use must be consistent with the center's primary mission of wildlife research, habitat preservation and refuge management."
But three of the 13 committee members wrote a dissenting opinion, charging that the group was divided on how to factor in the Patuxent property in their discussions.
The two-page minority opinion said residents would be better served by one regional park because the committee could not find land for neighborhood parks in every community.
While the three members said they were pleased the majority accepted the concept of using a portion of the Wildlife Center property as a park, they said the land won't be enough to satisfy the influx of residents expected in West County.
"They have all these children coming, and they are building all these schools, yet they are not putting anything in for recreation and parks," said Ray Smallwood, a dissenting committee member and president of the Maryland City Civic Association.
County Executive Robert R. Neall, who proposed developing a park on 9,000 acres of surplus Army land last August, said through a spokeswoman that "there is nothing in this report that changes that concept."
The spokeswoman, Louise Hayman, said the county Recreation and Parks Department will forward its own report to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Center, which owns the Patuxent land, on how "Anne Arundel County could utilize the land." A meeting between the two agencies has been scheduled for July 10.
The report also identifies numerous sites that could be &r purchased, including 100 acres in Crofton and 35 acres in Maryland City.
Council Chairman David G. Boschert, who chaired the committee, also said that 500 acres at Fort Meade slated to be turned over to the wildlife center in September could be used as a park.
But the Crownsville Democrat said other Patuxent land should not be disturbed. He said community parks that could be used for ball fields are needed. The Patuxent land already is a federal park, he said, that can be used for biking, hiking, hunting and fishing.
The report also says that unexploded ordnance on the Patuxent property "creates a safety hazard that is costly to eliminate." The 9,000-acre property is being swept and unexploded artillery shells are being removed.
But Smallwood said the danger cited in the report is non-existent, especially since the Army is removing shells and other ordnance.
"The outdoorsmen say if you put a park there, it will ruin the ecology," Smallwood said. "The hunters say if you put a park there, all the wildlife will run out. Yet they've been dropping bombs on the place for 30 years and the animals haven't moved."
The minority report says that an old parachute practice area near Bald Eagle Drive would be ideal for a park, mainly because the 400-acre tract already is cleared of trees.
POSSIBLE SITES FOR COUNTY PARKS
* The area west and south of the Fort Meade landfill. Most is forested, and Fort Meade may retain certain acreage for future landfill expansion. But 90 acres may be available to the county.
* A 30-acre tract between Bald Eagle Drive and west of Tipton Army Airfield. It is just south of four ball fields, now operated by Fort Meade and the National Security Agency.
* A 35-acre tract in Maryland City, now owned by the federal government. The land is next to the Brock Bridge Elementary School and 40 acres of county-owned land.
* Land west of Bald Eagle Drive (U.S. Government would own the land and allow the county to operate a park) or the northern edge of the wildlife research center, next to Soldiers Lake.
* The 100-acre Legum tract, between Route 198 and the northern border of the wildlife center. The owner, Doug Legum, is negotiating a sale to the county at a reduced price, in return for tax breaks.
* A 100-acre tract at the Russett Center community, 3,500 homes now under construction at Route 198 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. The developer is willing to exchange this land for 20 acres owned by the county school system.
* A 100-acre tract in Crofton, south of the intersection of Defense Highway and Davidsonville Road. The owner may be persuaded to sell the land to the county at a reasonable price.
* Federal land now occupied by the D.C. Children's Center. Some or all of the 1,500 acres may become available if Congress orders the troubled center to shut down.
So: Report of the West County Park Committee