County mulls building park on Ft. Meade land 500-acre tract could include ball fields, open space

July 08, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

County officials have decided to pursue developing a park similar to ones in Pasadena and Crofton on 500 acres of surplus Fort Meade land that is now part of a wildlife preserve.

While details were not divulged yesterday, officials from the county Department of Recreation and Parks are scheduled to meet with Hal O'Conner, director of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, on Friday.

Jay Cuccia, assistant to county Recreation and Parks Director William A. Rinehart, said a formal proposal will come later based on that discussion.

"We don't have a plan yet," Mr. Cuccia said. "We are going to look at all the possibilities on a variety of parcels."

He said designs being thrown around do not resemble the 336-acre, $18 million Quiet Waters Park, built near Annapolis by former County Executive O. James Lighthizer's administration. The ideas are more like a combination of Downs Park and Crofton Park, consisting of much-needed ball fields and open space.

Mr. Cuccia said many sites on the Patuxent land will be discussed, but the area known as the 500-acre "drop zone," or old parachute practice area off Bald Eagle Drive, would be preferred. Most of the land, near Fort Meade Road and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, is already clear of trees.

The Army two years ago declared surplus 9,000 acres of what used to be firing ranges at the base. Congress, in turning the land over to the wildlife research center, made it part of the one of the largest preserved open spaces on the East Coast.

County Executive Robert R. Neall proposed developing a park on 500 acres of the land last August, raising concerns that building a park will destroy a natural habitat.

Mr. O'Conner said he would not comment before Friday.

The meeting comes just nine days after a report by the West County Park Committee, a group of area residents and #i politicians looking for parkland in that section of the county, that recommended against developing a park on the wildlife reserve.

"I reiterated my great concern," said County Council Chairman David G. Boschert, who chaired the committee and said he was briefed on the county's park proposal on Monday. "I told Mr. Reinhardt that I was opposed to a park at that location."

A spokeswoman for the county executive said nothing in the report changed Mr. Neall's mind. She said alternative park sites listed would not be pursued until a final determination is made on the Patuxent site.

But Mr. Cuccia said other park sites around the county are being actively pursued, especially a 100-acre tract in Crofton, south of the intersection of Defense Highway and Davidsonville Road. The county is trying to get the owner to sell the land at a reasonable price.

"If we get the land at Fort Meade, it does not mean we are going to stop in the Crofton area," Mr. Cuccia said.

But developing a park on the site may not be easy. Mr. O'Conner said that once a site is identified, it must pass a variety of reviews by refuge managers and research scientists. The park must be compatible with the center's mission of managing wildlife, wildlife habitats and wildlife research.

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