July 14, 2008

Homeport Park Plan Just a Starter

By E.B. FURGURSON III Staff Writer

County park officials have unveiled a plan for a 25-acre park on Church Creek south of Annapolis.

It's the starting point in a community discussion on the future of Anne Arundel's newest park.

The property was originally part of Homeport Farm, a 25.15-acre parcel off Route 2, that was the subject of more than 10 years of wrangling over proposed development.

The project was allowed to move forward and many of the estate- like homes have been built.

The final deal included setting aside about 24 acres for a county park. That land was along a tributary of Church Creek abutting Wilelinor, the neighborhood just north of Homeport.

This week Recreation and Parks Department officials presented the initial plan at a meeting to a packed room. Attendees included local residents, environmentalists and paddling enthusiasts - the latter were there to back plans to provide a spot for canoes and kayaks on the banks of Church Creek.

"What we are sharing with you is a concept," said Director of Recreation and Parks Frank Marzucco. "What will happen will come from a consensus of everyone in this room."

Paddlers were glad to see another addition to the slim number of county-owned spots they could use to put one of their boats in.

"It is nice to see the county ready to provide more water access," said Greg Welker, representing the Chesapeake Paddlers Association. "We have about 300 members in the county. We are good stewards. We believe people who use the resource ought to take care of it."

And there's more in the plan.

The land transfer came with a permanent stipulation that the land remain open space and be used for passive recreation only: walking and running trails, non-motorized boat access, gardening, environmental research and conservation hiking.

All that is included.

A new driveway will have to be installed along the park's edge, because the existing road belongs to the development.

Two small existing homes will be spruced up to be used as offices or meeting spaces. Existing barns might store park equipment or even canoes for a paddling club.

And the proposal includes three chunks of current pasture land set aside for community gardens, where area people might try out their green thumbs.

Along a narrow point by the creek a small pier, with perhaps a floating pier for kayaks and canoes, will be installed.

There will be two pervious parking areas for 30 cars, but only one will be used at a time. More than seven acres has been set aside as a conservation area to be preserved, save for minimal disturbance for the motorless boat dock. That land borders the water of the main stem of the creek and the recently restored Atlantic White Cedar wetland along the tributary abutting Wilelinor.

Other landscaping, including planting trees to expand the buffer area next to the creek, will be aimed at eliminating stormwater run- off, preventing soil erosion and restoring wildlife habitat.

The plan presented is only a stepping-off point, officials said.

There is no county money budgeted, or even an official project in the capital program, for any of the work on the park, which is estimated to initially cost about $500,000. "There is no money," said Mr. Marzucco. "This is in its infancy."

He and others urged those assembled at the meeting to write to the County Council to urge support for the park program.

After a couple of inquiries from the audience about funding sources, Speaker of the House Michael E. Busch, who is also assistant to Mr. Marzucco at the county Department of Recreation and Parks, stood to recite possible funding sources.

"There are a number of funding sources for different areas," said Mr. Busch, an Annapolis Democrat. "Local bond bills, waterway improvement funds, open space money, trails money. This is something that might be done in phases."

Kincey Potter, who is president of the South River Federation, and who lives at Church Creek, was excited about the prospects for the park and the positive impact it can have on local waterways.

"Access to waterways is so important," she said. "We know that if people are using the river they are likely to be supporters of the river."

She said the focus should be on getting a plan together to be able to present to the County Council in time for county budget deliberations next spring.

Mr. Marzucco agreed and urged people to contact his department to submit suggestions for the park.

Those ideas will be folded into the plan debate and subsequent meetings on the park's future will be announced, likely in the fall.

To contact the Park and Recreation Department, call 410-222-7300 or visit www.aacounty.org/recparks. {Corrections:} {Status:}


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