Board to focus on list of rec topics

Aim is to guide discussion of county's future needs

Howard At Play

October 24, 2004|By Lowell E. Sunderland | Lowell E. Sunderland,SUN STAFF

Howard County's advisory board on recreation and parks received a six-point matrix last week intended to guide new public discussions about services likely to be needed in the latter half of this decade.

Among the topics earmarked for public input were building pathways and more swimming facilities and indoor sports facilities, acquiring more land, entering partnerships with private groups and adding services for seniors.

Testimony from the public is being solicited for a series of advisory board hearings that will extend into the spring. Information is expected to be posted on the Department of Recreation and Parks' Web site.

Information drawn from those hearings will help the agency revamp a long-range plan required by the state's Program Open Space law every five years.

The matrix's points were phrased as questions. Gary J. Arthur, the rec department's director, said they would help his agency and the county administration recalibrate budgetary priorities with changes in the county's demographics. The questions, not listed in any particular order, are:

Runners, hikers and bikers want pathways built, but immediate neighbors do not, so should the [department] try to acquire rights of way and construct pathways?

Are public-private partnerships desirable to provide added recreational services to the public? (An example would be a proposed tennis center for a new Elkridge park that would be built and operated by the nonprofit Howard County Tennis Association.)

What, if any, new swimming facilities should be provided, indoors and outdoors? (The rec department has one outdoor pool, in Ellicott City.)

Should more indoor sports facilities be built? (Examples include the department's first gym and running track to be built in Glenwood, near the new Western Regional Park, and a proposed indoor facility for the new Meadowbrook Park in Ellicott City.)

How aggressive should county government be in acquiring parkland or preserving open space? (The advisory board heard that the county is 4,000 acres short of a state goal of 30 acres of such land for each 1,000 residents. But reaching that theoretical goal will be a tough sell, given that land is selling for $50,000 to $200,000 an acre around the county. And, the board was told, state Program Open Space money allotted to Howard County has been reduced by two-thirds annually.)

Senior programming requires affordable opportunities and specialized facilities; does the public support enhanced funding in this area? (The county has a growing older population, with about 25 percent ages 45 and older in 1990 - a percentage expected to stand at 41 percent by 2020.)

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