Last year, angry crowds opposed plans to build intensive-use recreational facilities in Howard County's parks, such as lighted fields, large picnic pavilions and a roofed roller hockey rink.
Last night, at the annual hearing on the park construction budget for fiscal 2002, which begins July 1, three people signed up to speak, and two of them praised recreation director Gary J. Arthur's proposals.
The third speaker, Dennis Luck, president of the county Sierra Club chapter, offered no criticism - only advice that passive, unpaved paths and trails are needed as much as ball fields.
"I've learned," a smiling Arthur said, comparing last year's budget process to this year's.
None of the projects in the fiscal 2002 request is new. The $7.7 million that Arthur seeks would mainly pay for basic items such as ball fields, land purchases and roads, along with an experiment with synthetic turf on two fields at Rockburn Park.
Arthur said the county plans to ask Gov. Parris N. Glendening for a $1 million matching grant to renovate the decayed mansion at Blandair, the 300-acre Smith farm in east Columbia that the county wants to transform into a park. Arthur said he hopes that legal battles over ownership of the land will be concluded by spring so that plans to develop the park can proceed.
Last night, Don Croce of West Friendship, president of the Western Howard County Youth Baseball and Softball League, praised plans to build playing fields at Western Regional Park being designed for Glenwood.
Dean Landis, of Glenwood, said he, too, supports more playing fields, as long as any lights at the new park are low-density and don't disturb his McKendree Estates community across Route 97 from the park.
Arthur said that to help solve the problem of a shortage of fields, he wants to experiment with a new style of synthetic turf at Rockburn Park. He said the new material is the kind used this year by the National Football League's Seattle Seahawks.
Unlike typical artificial turf, which he described as carpeted concrete, the new turf is installed on a base of sand, gravel and recycled rubber tires. It needs very little maintenance, costs less over time and can be used day and night year-round. It would cost $1.3 million to install - money that Arthur said the department has collected in fees and other charges during a period of years.
County officials eliminated some recreation projects last year, because residents feared they would attract large crowds and create traffic and litter. Residents said they did not want such facilities near their homes.
The projects included a proposed amphitheater and corporate-sized picnic pavilions at Western Regional Park in Glenwood, lighted fields for evening play at Meadowbrook Park along U.S. 29, and a roofed and lighted roller hockey rink at Alpha Ridge Park in the western county.
Next year's funding requests include:
$2.4 million to continue development of Western Regional Park in Glenwood. The new money would pay for five baseball fields, five multipurpose fields, roads, parking and storm-water management facilities.
$500,000 for Meadowbrook Park, along U.S. 29, for three baseball fields, two tennis courts, two basketball courts, two playgrounds, two picnic shelters and a 2-mile pathway system.
$1.5 million for Rockburn Park that would pay for roads, parking and the synthetic-turf experiment.
$1.1 million for a new park for Troy Hill, a historic site at Interstate 95 and Route 100. The county plans to restore a 19th-century house there, buy 39 more acres and build playing fields.
$180,000 to expand the clubhouse at the county-owned Timbers of Troy golf course in Elkridge. The expansion would include more restrooms, showers, storage and custodial space.
$400,000 for parkland acquisition for a series of community parks.
$50,000 for planning for Blandair, the 300-acre former Smith farm in Columbia.
$180,000 for preservation of historic sites.
$200,000 to acquire more land for North Laurel Park.
$767,000 to build a 2-mile path from Lake Elkhorn to Old Guilford Road near King's Contrivance, including two bridges and restoration of a railroad bridge across the Little Patuxent River.