Joggers, walkers and families with tots have the Sykesville Planning and Zoning Commission to thank for two new parks along the northwest side of town.
All those hours of haggling with developers for open space land came to fruition when Sykesville formally dedicated 36 acres at the two sites Saturday.
Nearly 10 years of planning have evolved into the Sykesville Linear Park, a two-mile trail that meanders next to a Patapsco River feeder stream, and Burkett Park, 12 acres of open space with a ball field, tot lot, picnic area and more amenities planned.
Long before the first houses were built at Hawk Ridge Farm, Scarborough Woods or Lexington Run, town planners envisioned parks surrounding the communities. In the past decade, as the developments came before the commission, planners insisted that the concept and site plans provide for open space and recreation opportunities.
"The parks were part of the Planning Commission requirements for recreation initiatives," said Town Manager James L. Schumacher. "When we reviewed a proposed development, we knew what we wanted as far as open space was concerned, and now it has fallen into place. The parks had been on the books for about 10 years."
The parks are "a unique recreational opportunity," he said. They are separated from nearby subdivisions by woodlands or green space. No streams were diverted during the construction, and a canopy of trees protects both sides of the narrow waterway in Linear Park, which begins near the end of Hawk Ridge Lane.
William R. "Bill" Hall Jr., chairman of the town Recreation and Parks Committee, said he was "most impressed" with the Linear Park, particularly its several fitness stations along the route.
"Walkers or joggers can stop to do stretches, sit-ups and pull-ups," he said. "There are instruction signs, too."
Nearly 80 percent of the 4-foot-wide trail is paved, and all of it is accessible to the handicapped and suitable for strollers.
Mayor Kenneth W. Clark said he hopes Linear Park eventually will connect with Piney Run Park at its north end and extend south to the Patapsco River.
"We have open space, heavily wooded areas and water components," the mayor said. "The parks are a great example of how a small town can work together."
The mayor and Mr. Hall, and his wife, Carol, were among more than 40 people who joined the two-hour walk and dedication ceremony Saturday.
"The more people find out about the parks, the more they will use them," Mr. Hall said.
After walking the trail, the group gathered at Burkett Park, named for Harold Burkett, a Carroll Food Sunday volunteer who gave many hours to feeding the needy before his death a few years ago. The organization used to work out of the Town House, and many local officials got to know Mr. Burkett.
"The Town Council decided years ago to honor Mr. Burkett," Mr. Schumacher said. "He was a town resident and had volunteered for years."
Phase I of the planned construction at the park on Norris Avenue is complete. State Planned Open Space grants helped pay for the nearly $43,000 in improvements to the 12-acre tract.
Phase II, which may begin next spring, includes an asphalt path around the tot lot, pavilions and more landscaping, "although the community may opt for more open space," Mr. Schumacher said.
Ken Whalen, a member of the Recreation and Parks Committee, saved the town about $1,000 in playground equipment, which he moved from Oklahoma Fields.
The Freedom Recreation Council moved the equipment to make way for the new middle school on Oklahoma Road and offered it to Sykesville. Mr. Hall said everything was "in really good shape."