Council OKs 20-year recreation plan User fees endorsed

park projects listed

February 04, 1997|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Council last night approved a plan charting the next 20 years for the Recreation and Parks Department, including $110 million of proposed projects and a continued focus on user fees to pay for recreation programs.

Council members tinkered around the edges of the plan -- approving amendments regarding park lighting, entrance fees and security -- but approved it unanimously and essentially intact.

"This is a planning document," said Councilman Darrel E. Drown, an Ellicott City Republican, signaling that many projects in the plan will never be built. "It doesn't tie our hands too rigorously. It just sets the tone."

The Recreation and Parks Department drafted the plan, called the "Comprehensive Recreation, Parks and Open Space Plan," in conjunction with an advisory committee of citizens and a private consultant.

The plan generally endorses the shift toward paying for recreation and parks programs through user fees rather than taxes -- a trend in Howard throughout the 1990s -- and says the county should even consider imposing entrance fees at some parks.

Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker recently vetoed a plan to charge parking fees at the county's five regional parks, including Centennial Park.

Last night, Councilwoman Mary C. Lorsung, a west Columbia Democrat, successfully pushed for an amendment requiring officials to study the impact on neighborhoods before charging fees to park at county parks.

The plan also lists individual projects that may be built over the next two decades. To accommodate population growth, the plan recommends building 90 playgrounds, 65 softball/baseball fields, 279 basketball courts, 63 football/soccer fields, 139 tennis courts and four ice rinks.

By 2000, the plan envisions a new park of more than 20 acres in the North Laurel area; a 50-acre park in the Elkridge area; construction of pathways and boardwalks at the 10-acre Atholton Park in Columbia, and development of the Troy Historic Site at Interstate 95 and Route 100.

By 2005, the plan recommends a 40-acre or two 20-acre parks in the Ellicott City area, two smaller parks in the Clarksville area and improvements at Savage Park.

And by 2010, the plan recommends building a neighborhood park near Route 175 and Tamar Drive, and community parks near U.S. 29 and Harding Road and at U.S. 1 and Route 176.

Pub Date: 2/04/97

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