When Howard County officials announced plans to put soccer fields and tennis courts at Meadowbrook Park in Ellicott City, nearly 100 residents from the surrounding area protested.
The same happened when they proposed soccer fields at the former Smith farm in Columbia or announced plans to install lights at a covered roller-hockey pavilion at the former Alpha Ridge landfill in western Howard County.
But when it comes to the Department of Recreation and Parks' comprehensive plan - the document that will guide its decisions on these and other issues - hardly anyone has shown interest.
No county residents attended two public meetings on the Comprehensive Recreation, Parks and Open Space Plan in April and May, and only two came to a third last month.
Fewer than 15 have written or called to make comments since two copies of the draft were placed in the county's six libraries in February, said Ken Alban, administrator of capital projects for Recreation and Parks.
Alban stressed that the department did everything it could to alert the public to the draft plan and the public meetings.
The County Council is expected to vote on the document next month.
Although mostly an update from the last plan in 1998, this one has notable points:
It notes the county's difficulty achieving its recreation goal of 30 acres of parkland for every 1,000 people because of increasing population, rising land values and lack of affordable and undeveloped land in the eastern and central regions. By 2015, there will be a projected shortage of nearly 10,000 acres.
It points out the need to install field and court lighting in parks to allow the department to maximize its use of park facilities.
It calls for Recreation and Parks to work more closely with county tourism officials.
It calls for more programs to accommodate the growing elderly population.
It suggests that the department explore implications of private sector development on public land.
Despite opposition, the plan still seeks development of the former Smith farm in Columbia and construction of a West Friendship golf course.
Lee Walker Oxenham, an environmental activist and a member of the Sierra Club, has some concerns about the push to increase tourism in the parks.
"There's a philosophical shift here from protection to management," Oxenham said. "We want the language of protection to be strengthened."
Gary J. Arthur, director of the county's Department of Recreation and Parks, said it is appropriate for the Recreation and Parks Department to work with tourism officials to spread the word about programs and events.
"Tourism is part of recreation and parks departments all around the country," he said.
Carole Conors, president of the League of Women Voters of Howard County, said she objects to the department's policy of charging fees for services.
"The notion of an entrepreneurial Department of Recreation and Parks to pay for itself on the backs of resident users is not in line with the quality of life we think should be offered citizens of all means," she said.
But Arthur said the department is not going to stop charging fees, noting that is the decision of the County Council and executive.
"That's not the direction I've been given," he said.
Arthur said he is surprised so few people have shown interest in the draft - but not too surprised.
"I don't think there's too much controversial in it," he said, adding, "Unless it's controversial, people, in general, are not going to show up."