Parks director calls for innovation to keep pace with growth Government funds may be leveling off

February 22, 1996|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,SUN STAFF

If the county Department of Recreation and Parks is to keep pace with Howard's projected population explosion, it must find innovative ways to serve the public and raise funds to provide services, its director said last night.

By 2010, the county's population, now 221,810, is projected to grow to 285,325, Jeffrey A. Bourne, the recreation director, told the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board. "It will be a significant change in how we live in Howard County. There will be a lot more of us."

Referring to a recent newspaper article about Walt Disney Co.'s paying New York City $1 million to hold the premiere of the movie "Pocahontas" in Central Park, Mr. Bourne said, "The reality is, the money is not coming from taxes, it's not coming from traditional sources.

"We've got to seek other revenues," Mr. Bourne said. "We're not going to host Disney's next extravaganza, certainly, but maybe PTC there are other opportunities we can use."

Because government funding may not grow, the department, like many other agencies, is trying to find other ways to fund programs and services. The department's budget this year is about $5 million, with $2 million coming from the state and the balance from the county.

The department anticipates rapid growth in the number of people who use its programs and services, as has occurred for the past 15 years.

At last night's board meeting, Mr. Bourne gave an overview of the department's 1995 Comprehensive Recreation, Parks and Open Space Plan.

To accommodate the projected growth, the plan calls for the department to establish grant programs under which neighborhood associations would be given money for recreation programs, Mr. Bourne said.

Elements of the comprehensive plan, which was put together with the help of Greenhorne and O'Mara, a Greenbelt consultant, came from a survey that was mailed to every household in the county.

In the 5,848 surveys that were returned, most expressed a desire for recreation programs for youngsters up to age 5, Mr. Bourne said. Activities for senior citizens also were popular.

"We have a tremendous double hump, if you will, that will move through Howard County," Mr. Bourne said, referring to the projected population growth and the fact that people are living longer.

According to the survey, physical activity is the main reason people visit the parks. Hiking and biking were among the most popular activities mentioned. Those activities also helped conservation efforts, as hikers and bikers help to preserve land for bike paths and trails, Mr. Bourne said.

Most respondents also wanted small neighborhood parks, he said.

The advisory board will consider whether to build neighborhood parks or regional parks.

The county park system includes four regional parks, nine community parks and 13 neighborhood parks.

Joan Lancos, vice chair of the board, said she was impressed with the plan. "I think it's visionary," she said.

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