Hampstead council members have begun shaping their vision for a downtown park and hope to develop a plan that will allow land grading and turf seeding to begin this summer.
Town Manager Kenneth C. Decker said that although Hampstead leaders have much to consider about specific layouts, the basic plan for the park seems to have solidified, with walking trails and three or four baseball fields likely to be the main features.
The town, anticipating demand for more ball fields, bought the 17-acre Brown property between North Carroll Street and Christopher Way in June with plans to build a park. A $326,000 grant from the state's Project Open Space program paid for the land.
It seems clear the town will need to connect dead-end roads Christopher Way and Dakota Road to provide adequate park access, Decker said.
At a public hearing in October, residents of Christopher Way said they are worried that park visitors would leave cars on their street and drug dealers would look for business in the park. Town leaders said they expect to hear these and other concerns as plans for the park progress, but the town is determined to build the park, they said.
"I'm sure some people would rather see it remain a field with soybeans and corn," Decker said. "But the alternative to the park is a development of 55 high-density housing units, so those who may not love the idea of a park may want to consider that. I, for one, would like to live on the edge of a municipal park, where somebody else has to mow the lawn that I use to toss the football."
The town's comprehensive plan has included a "centerpiece" park since 1986, and with the use of other ball fields potentially compromised by planned developments, now is a perfect time to add recreational space, town leaders say. They have been helped by several state grants. In addition to the Open Space money, Hampstead received a $207,000 grant from the Maryland Community Parks Program that will pay for much of the land grading on the sloping property.
Decker said that before next month's town meeting, he would try to mail specific information on park plans to neighbors of the former Brown property. The council will field questions and concerns from those residents at the meeting. The council probably will discuss plans for the park at every meeting in the foreseeable future, Decker said.
Plans for park features and layout remain flexible, and public suggestions on park design would help the council, he added.