Residents oppose plan for bridge

Gorman Park span could add disruptions and litter, they say

February 03, 2000|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

A proposal to build a footbridge in Gorman Park has sparked concern among North Laurel residents that the project could lead to an increase in crime and litter in their community.

The footbridge would span Middle Patuxent River and connect Kindler Road and Eden Brook Drive. Some who live near the park say that they have been disturbed by late-night parties in the woods, and that they worry about attracting more people.

"We have concerns because we have had enough instances of inappropriate behavior in the park," said Ed Litzenberger, who lives near it. "We are concerned that this will open it up to a greater awareness of the area."

On one side of the park are the communities of Twin Oaks and Kindler Estates, where residents say they have had cars vandalized, tools stolen and carloads of partygoers roaring through their streets late at night.

Police could confirm a broken windshield but had no reports of other incidents.

On the other side of the park is Kings Contrivance village, where board members of the community association voted last year to support a footbridge at the suggestion of Howard County Department of Public Works.

"Last year about this time, a representative from county government came and suggested putting a footpath in," said Anne Dodd, village manager. "The board advertised in our newsletter about the issue and received 26 responses -- 18 positive and eight negative."

Dodd said the five-member board, whose association represents 4,000 homes and 11,000 members, agreed that the footbridge is a good project.

The bridge would be built on the site of one that was washed away by Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972.

"Some of the discussion centered around the fact that the area was very beautiful and should be open to the public," Dodd said.

"I think there was a feeling that if it was developed, even on a small scale," Dodd said, "that that would cause people to go there and eliminate some of the dumping."

But residents on the other side believe the opposite might occur. Rodney Peterson lives adjacent to the park on Kindler Road and said that on a warm day, he has collected as much as two trash bags full of debris left behind by park visitors.

Peterson said he was perplexed about as to why the county would invest so much money in the project when police and Recreation and Parks Department officials have often mentioned a lack of resources as a reason that more has not been done to patrol and to clean up the park.

"Right now, I am trying to figure out the benefits for both our community and the community on the other side of the river," Peterson said.

"I am just really concerned about the investment of public funds for this," he said.

Von Meyer, a Howard County planner, said the project would be funded with $150,000 in federal money and $200,000 from the county. If approved, construction is scheduled to begin in 2003.

Those opposed to the new bridge also worry that it eventually would be extended to a road that would allow traffic through the park.

Martha McNeil lives on Kindler Road and said she is eager to receive more information.

"This is just a community of houses, and we have no merchants or shops here that would need to attract traffic," McNeil said.

"If [the county] is being considerate of us and what we want," she said, "I think we would rather pass and just keep our privacy."

Public comment on the project will be taken before the Planning Board at 7 p.m. today in County Council chambers in the George Howard Building, Ellicott City.

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