The Carroll County Agricultural Center is moving forward with plans to build a rabbit barn with funds donated in memory of a young woman dedicated to ideals of 4-H and to the care of animals.
The Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission yesterday reviewed details for a 3,520-square-foot barn set for construction at the center in Westminster. The building, slated for completion next summer, will be within easy walking distance of the Danele Shipley Memorial Arena, which opened in July.
The family of Ellen Marie Roche is donating the barn, estimated to cost about $135,000, in her name. Roche, who was active in 4-H throughout her childhood, died three years ago after participating in a Johns Hopkins medical study of how the lungs of healthy people work differently from those of asthmatics. She was 24.
Her family established a scholarship fund in her name that has awarded more than $60,000 in aid to students interested in medicine or agriculture. It also made plans to build the barn, a gift family members said would commemorate Roche's nurturing spirit.
The barn will give hundreds of children a place to exhibit their rabbits during the fair and at shows throughout the year. The popularity of rabbits has grown, with one recent show at the Ag Center drawing about 2,500 exhibits.
Roche loved all animals, but family members said her fondness for rabbits is among their strongest memories. She began raising rabbits as young girl, at one time tending 100 bunnies in cages lining the dirt-floor basement of her family's farmhouse in Reisterstown. She competed in adult rabbit shows for several years.
She joined the Carroll County 4-H Club when she was about 7 and later took on several leadership roles - officer in its rabbit club, 4-H ambassador and, eventually, mentor to younger members.
Her father, Bernard J. Roche Jr., pledged to do "whatever it takes to make this building happen," he said in an interview with The Sun last year. He was not available for comment yesterday.
The old rabbit barn where Ellen Roche showed her animals was razed two years ago to make way for the $5.5 million arena. An old cattle barn served as the rabbit hall this year, but the bunnies will stay in the new building next summer.
"We will start building in the spring, and it will be no problem to have it ready for the fair next summer," said Franklin Feeser, a member of the Ag Center board. "It is a simple, totally enclosed barn. And the best thing is that this is at no cost to the county."