City steps closer to turning park over to Anne Arundel

November 03, 2005|By PHILLIP MCGOWAN | PHILLIP MCGOWAN,SUN REPORTER

The Baltimore Board of Estimates unanimously approved a licensing agreement yesterday that will allow Anne Arundel County to take over daily control of a city-owned park on the shores of the Patapsco River.

Also yesterday, the city signed the 45-year licensing agreement on Fort Smallwood Park, clearing the way for the county to assume control of the 100-acre parcel in 90 days.

The two sides announced the agreement last week, ending nearly 40 years of county overtures to take over a park that is known not only for its views of the Chesapeake Bay but also for its environmental contamination and decay, and for the rowdiness of its visitors.

The National Park Service must sign off on the agreement because the 78-year-old park was once owned by the federal government. That approval is expected.

Under the deal, the county will assume responsibility for maintaining and securing the park. It will also spearhead the cleanup of lead paint and asbestos there, a project the county estimates could cost $10 million. The county will pay no rent to the city, but Baltimore will maintain ownership of the park, the site of a fort built in 1896 to protect the city's harbor.

Baltimore bought Fort Smallwood from the Army for $50,000 in 1927 on the condition that it remain parkland, or revert back to the federal government.

The county will close the park once the deal goes into effect, about Feb. 1. By the spring, Anne Arundel officials said, they will replace two playgrounds that were ripped out this year, remove dead trees and stabilize the shoreline. The park will reopen when those improvements are completed, they said.

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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