Odenton park known for its natural beauty and bad name Litter, vandalism mar appearance, scare people off WEST COUNTY -- Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills

January 12, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Over the years, a small county-owned park in Odenton has developed a bad reputation as a place for teen-agers to party and thieves to dump their stolen cars.

People drive by and leave their trash strewn about -- and not just on park property, but on neighborhood lawns as well.

Community leaders and residents say the park, on Patuxent Road west of Bragers Road, would be better used if only it could be kept clean.

"It was a very nice park years ago," said County Councilman David G. Boschert, who represents the area. "The state ran it very well until the '70s, when the county took over. That is when, in my opinion, there were some problems."

The 10-acre Patuxent River Park, which includes two lakes still used for fishing, is part of more than 600 acres scattered around the river and its tributaries owned by Anne Arundel County.

The undeveloped land provides a natural buffer and protects wetlands in the watershed.

"Most of the parks are not accessible," said Polly Peuleche, chief of environmental facilities for the county Department of Recreation and Parks. "But that doesn't mean they aren't valuable. Some are really pretty."

The 600 acres are not parks in the way most people understand -- developed land with baseball diamonds, trails and pavilions.

Rather, they are reserved natural areas left alone to rejuvenate.

Some, like the one off Patuxent Road, are old sand and gravel mining operations or quarries, which the county hopes eventually will revert to a natural state.

"For some of these, if you didn't use your map book and park along the side of the road, you would never find them," Ms. Peuleche said.

But the 10-acre Patuxent River Park, one of four parcels with the same name located near the communities of Wilson Town and Woodwardville, is different.

People use this park -- often for fishing, but to a lesser extent for picnicking and community gatherings. Some come to hike and appreciate its natural setting.

Model boaters gather twice a year to wage mock wars.

But it is the illegal activity that gives the parcel a bad name.

"I have no desire to go to that park," said Eugene Turner, 76, who has lived nearby for 18 years. "They do all kinds of things up there -- illegal things."

County officials acknowledge that teen-age drinking, vandalism and people racing off-road vehicles have been a persistent problem, mainly because the park is isolated.

Trash also is a problem, and at least one community group holds annual cleanups to help out.

"The county tries to keep up, but there is so much vandalism," said Buz Meyer, president of the Forks of Patuxent Civic Association. "More people use it now that we've cleaned it up. But it could be used so much more. People with little children don't come because it is viewed as being dangerous."

Mr. Boschert, who has requested frequent police patrols to ease concerns of nearby residents, agrees.

"The county should clean it on a daily basis," he said. "It doesn't take that much. It has improved, but there still is a problem with beer cans being thrown all over the place.

"I believe a lot of people from the Greater Crofton area would use the park, but you have got to give people something they can use. Right now, the park is used for parties," Mr. Boschert said.

County officials, who recently installed a gate to keep off-road vehicles out, said they are hoping community groups will help out and maybe adopt the park.

"It is not taken care of as much as our traditional parks," said Christine Coffin, a spokeswoman for the county Department of Recreation and Parks. "It is visited, but it is not on a regular maintenance schedule."

Ms. Peuleche called the small park "an important little spot in the overall picture of the Patuxent," and said that people throwing trash is a problem up and down the river.

"It is not going to get the same attention that a park with ball fields that require mowing is going to get," she said.

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