Nearly 100 turn out to protest park plan

Officials say county needs sports complex

neighbors fear disruption

April 08, 1999|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

Nearly 100 residents of an established Ellicott City neighborhood turned out last night to protest the development of a nearby 77-acre park into a sports complex that could include a roller rink and ball fields lighted at night.

The Columbia Hills/Meadowbrook Farm Community Association came out in force to a Howard County Recreation and Parks public hearing on Meadowbrook Park, at the southeast corner of U.S. 29 and Route 100.

The land, which the county has owned since 1984, consists of meadows, wetlands and a stream. Recreation and parks officials -- who say there is a shortage of ball fields and other recreational facilities in the eastern part of Howard County -- want to develop 33 acres of the park for "active recreation" and leave 44 acres undisturbed.

But residents in the Columbia Hills/Meadowbrook Farm Community Association, representing a neighborhood adjacent to the park, worry about increased noise, traffic and crime, not to mention park lights shining into their windows at night.

"We really would like to preserve some of the last undeveloped space in Howard County," said Michael Flatley, a longtime resident of the community. "What we see is a relatively small park area that is jam-packed with facilities."

Recreation and Parks officials said the county would consider all comments, but will also take into account that there are not enough ball fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, bike trails and playgrounds in the highly-developed eastern part of the county.

"There is a shortage county-wide of recreational facilities," said Gary J. Arthur, director of the Department of Recreation and Parks. "We have an opportunity here, because of the meadows, that we have to develop these kinds of facilities."

He said at "maximum use" the athletic facilities would hold 230 people an hour.

"Games will change on the hour," said Ken Alban Jr., a Recreation and Parks administrator. "Folks will come in and folks will come out."

He added: "If we find that we are over-programming this facility, we can make adjustments."

Philip Valle of the Columbia Hills/Meadowbrook Farm community complained that use of the fields would be monopolized by organized sporting groups, such as leagues who would pay the county to use the fields.

Said Valle: "All that would be left for us or our children would be a playground, a couple of picnic tables and a lot of traffic for us to dodge on the way home.

William O. Franz, another resident, said he would prefer a "low-density, informal park that the neighborhood communities can use, as well as the existing wildlife."

"Our community is completely surrounded by major roads and developments," said Franz. "We're on a daily basis bombarded and engulfed by noise and light pollution."

He noted that the bluebirds are making a comeback in the neighborhood, and worried about the effect the park would have on them.

"When the critters die, we die," he said.

The audience applauded.

Pub Date: 4/08/99

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