Mount Airy considers county's offer to lease park to town

October 24, 1997|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Carroll County has agreed to lease a 44-acre park to Mount Airy, but town officials are debating whether any additional recreational uses -- such as a BMX track -- would justify maintenance and other costs.

Mayor Gerald R. Johnson said he is assessing whether to recommend that the Town Council sign a lease agreement offered by the County Commissioners.

The commissioners approved the proposed lease Oct. 7, opening the way for the town to add recreation activities at Watkins Park.

The park, which is in the town on Route 27 but is owned by the county, has athletic fields, tennis courts, a pavilion and tot lot. The town added a portable ice rink last winter. An undeveloped section -- reserved for a future high school -- is being eyed for a BMX track and skateboard area.

"What I'm going to have to ascertain is what use we can put the park to and see whether it is in our best interest to accept the lease," Johnson said.

He said the lease has not been scheduled for council discussion.

The county proposed a 20-year lease for $1 a year, to be reviewed at the end of three years. The commissioners would retain veto rights over proposed development of the park.

The town would lose the $3,000 annual payment it receives from county government to maintain the park.

Johnson said he saw no problems in the terms of the proposed lease agreement.

A lease was suggested by Richard Soisson, county Recreation and Parks director, after Johnson approached him in June about the possibility of a BMX track.

Prospective BMX operator Kieth Buswell, a Mount Airy resident whose son is a bicycle motocross racer, said he has done preliminary work on the nonprofit organization that would operate the track and sponsor races.

"I've had some interest with people, but I haven't gone too far because of waiting for the land," Buswell said.

He said he doesn't want to generate too much enthusiasm until he learns whether the park property will be available.

Buswell's plan calls for a 2-acre track, open to the public without charge six days a week. Fees from weekly races would cover the sponsoring organization's costs, including liability insurance.

"I think it's a real good benefit for the children and adults in the area," Buswell said. He said races would attract people who would patronize local restaurants and other businesses, providing an economic benefit to the town.

Mount Airy residents who responded to a community needs survey last summer asked for a skateboard park, which town officials say could be developed with the BMX track. A Frederick-based sports business has reportedly expressed interest in operating a skateboard park.

Pub Date: 10/24/97

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