Parks work to get started

Ellicott City, Glenwood facilities to break ground

`We feel great. We're elated'

Playing fields featured

completion due in 2004

Howard County

October 11, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

After months of controversy and years of waiting, work is finally set to begin on two large new parks in opposite ends of Howard County.

In two years, people will be playing on 10 athletic fields at the 160-acre Western Regional Park in Glenwood, and on up to seven more at the 77-acre Meadowbrook Community Park in Ellicott City.

"We feel great. We're elated," to get the projects under way, said Gary Arthur, county director of recreation and parks.

Recreation leaders in the field-starved county are happy, too.

"It definitely releases the pressure from existing fields," said Jim Carlan, executive director of the Soccer Association of Columbia, which is working on its own playing-field complex near Centennial Park.

"The biggest benefit is it will allow Parks and Recreation to rest fields," he said, noting that fields resodded two years ago are wearing thin because of constant use.

Others still have doubts.

William O. Franz, a 28-year Columbia Hills resident, said his opinion of the Meadowbrook project remains the same as when he appeared at a public meeting on the park held in April 1999.

"I think the [Meadowbrook] park should have been a passive park dedicated to learning and study of wildlife. Wildlife in this area has been pushed out by all the development," Franz said.

The designs of the parks were altered by residents' objections during a series of disputes in 1999 and 2000 over plans for more active facilities, such as lighted fields, music amphitheaters and large picnic pavilions.

Western county residents complained at meetings attended by up to 300 people that those items would draw hard-to-control outsiders to their rural area.

Columbia Hills residents did not want lighted fields and night games near their homes. The county changed the plans, eliminating those things.

Arthur said that people driving by Western Regional Park on Route 97 at Carrs Mill Road may have noticed machinery used to build a storm-water pond there for a new shopping center on the park's edge.

The county reached an agreement with the center's private developer to share the pond - and the cost of building it.

The county has scheduled official groundbreakings for each park - one at 4 p.m. today next to the Glenwood library for the western park, and another tomorrow at the Ellicott City park's park-and-ride lot.

Work beginning now is the first phase of development - roads, parking, drainage, grading and the initial playing fields.

The county has appropriated $5.7 million of the $12 million total cost for the Glenwood park and $4.2 million of the total $7.5 million cost for Meadowbrook.

Western Regional will open with six baseball/softball fields and four multipurpose fields, and Meadowbrook will have three baseball/softball fields and two multipurpose adult fields that, if children are playing, can be used for four games at once.

In the second phase, Arthur said, the park in Glenwood will get permanent restrooms, a covered roller-hockey rink, a 1.5-mile horse trail, a 3-mile walking path and tennis and basketball courts.

The Ellicott City park's second phase will include permanent restrooms, a covered in-line hockey rink that could be fully enclosed and children's playgrounds.

Both parks will have large open areas.

Franz said he may use the park after all - "as long as they leave areas for wildlife study."

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