Robey changes plans for park

Small amphitheater, large pavilion dropped

January 25, 2000|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Yielding to the protests of western Howard residents, County Executive James N. Robey said yesterday he has decided to scale back some features of a planned regional park in Glenwood -- eliminating a large picnic pavilion and a small amphitheater.

A standing-room-only crowd of about 300 residents urged Robey on Jan. 10 to make the changes. Led by Randall Nixon and Timothy Dowd, who are owners of local farms used for picnics, weddings, summer camps and tennis clubs, residents said they want the park and more playing fields for children -- but not large facilities that would attract big crowds or compete with local businesses.

Robey said no amphitheater will be built, and plans for a 300-person capacity picnic pavilion will be changed. More athletic fields will be added, and the county will try to find ways to involve private entrepreneurs like Nixon and Dowd, he said.

"The last thing I want to do is hurt any businesses out there," Robey said, although he defended the role of government in recreation.

The 180-acre western regional park "is something I inherited," he said. "I think it's necessary."

Although some people think county government should do less, Robey said, "we want to serve the public" in a niche market not addressed by private business.

Nixon and Dowd said they are pleased with Robey's decision.

"I thought they didn't take us very seriously prior to the meeting," said Nixon, whose family operates Nixon's Farm on

Route 32 in West Friendship.

"They dramatically underestimated the amount of opposition they would receive in the west. One of the principal rights of citizens from their government is the right to be left alone."

Nixon said that he, like most other speakers at the meeting, wants the park. "We're not NIMBYs [Not in My Back Yard]," he said. "We're willing to work with the county in any way."

Dowd, whose former dairy farm is less than a mile from the park site, said, "I'm very happy." He has a 40,000-square-foot, three-story athletic building that he rents to an indoor tennis operation and the Triumph Health and Fitness Center. He also rents a banquet room and runs a summer camp.

"I'm glad they're moving forward on the ball fields," he said. "They're listening."

Gary Arthur, county recreation director, said the $3 million requested next fiscal year for the park, on Route 97 at Carrs Mill Road, should be unaffected because it would pay for park infrastructure and playing fields.

"If they object to the larger corporate pavilion, we will try to listen to their demands," he said. He wants one or two pavilions big enough for 125 people, if just to shelter summer campers from sudden storms.

Arthur also said he wants to revamp his department's park development process. Recently, county residents objected to items such as lighted fields and covered roller hockey rinks planned for several parks, including Meadowbrook and Alpha Ridge.

"It really doesn't make any sense for us to plan something that we think has already been looked at by the community and then we have to change everything," he said. "We're going to look at a different process."

At the Glenwood gathering, Arthur recounted in detail the three public meetings on the new western park that his department held in the community over the past several years.

Residents complained that they didn't know details of what would be included in the park until recently.

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