Rockburn park plan advances

County asked to give $500,000 to develop a historical area

`Great educational resource'

Project had been delayed as other needs took priority

February 22, 2000|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

After 25 years, a plan to develop parts of Rockburn Branch Park in Elkridge is forging ahead, and Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks officials are hoping a proposed historical area there will give the project a boost.

Officials are requesting $500,000 in capital funding from the county to begin construction on what would be the first historical project in a regional park in Howard. The area would include the 19th-century Pfeiffer Corner Schoolhouse, the Clover Hill on Elkridge house, which dates to 1772, and two log cabins on the property.

Gary J. Arthur, director of recreation and parks, said the money would be used to pay for a parking area, entrance road and relocation of the schoolhouse and a maintenance facilities building.

"We have 38 historical properties in the county, but this would be the first time we have ever really tried to establish a historical area in a regional park," Arthur said. "We envision that it will be a great educational resource."

Some of the 425-acre regional park has been developed. Arthur said several ball fields and tennis courts have been built since 1975. Restrooms, a concession stand, a storage area and Rockburn Elementary School are also on the grounds.

But a 21-point plan -- which no longer includes archery ranges and a lake -- has lagged behind over the years as recreation and parks funding requests have had to compete for county dollars.

"As Howard County has developed, priorities such as public safety and schools have been met before parks and leisure activities have been addressed," Arthur said. "That's the case in all of the counties in the region."

Arthur recently met with the Elkridge Community Association to share information about the project. Kevin Doyle, president of the association, said residents' reactions to the plan have been mixed.

"There are some who do not want to see development in the park," Doyle said. "There are others who see the need for more ball fields and recreation areas. The community association probably won't be taking a position on it because these plans have been in place for so long."

Polly Thornton, a member of the association who lives on Montgomery Road near the park, said she is worried about further development of the park, even on a small scale.

"It really is the last free open space left in Elkridge, and everyone wants to chomp on it," Thornton said. "I feel that once they start removing those trees, more and more trees will be taken down to support the infrastructure they want to put in there."

To allay such fears, Arthur said, officials plan to develop 25 percent of the park. Of the 7,700 acres of county-owned land, 12 percent has been developed, he said. "We try to create a balance between the natural and developed areas."

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