Public swimming pools and walking/jogging paths are Washington County’s greatest recreational deficiencies, according to a proposed county plan for land preservation, parks and recreation.
The county or its municipalities will need to add about 28 more acres of parkland each year to keep up with population growth over the next 20 years, the draft plan said.
To meet those needs, the draft recommends rail-to-trail projects, shared-use school gyms and grounds, and a Hagerstown-area recreation complex.
The findings are part of a 75-page proposal for an updated Washington County Land Preservation Parks and Recreation Plan.
The draft plan, which is open for public review and comment through noon on Friday, will also be the subject of three public input meetings in the next two weeks, including Monday in Boonsboro, March 27 in Clear Spring and March 29 in Hagerstown.
The plan, updated every six years, is a requirement for the county to use funding from Maryland Program Open Space and to comply with a federal land and water conservation law. The current update would replace a version adopted in 2005.
The plan analyzes existing park and recreation facilities and makes recommendations for land acquisition, park development and fulfillment of recreational needs.
“The county will use this information to help protect its resources, encourage social involvement and promote health and wellness — while using public investment dollars wisely,” a county news release said.
The most significant changes in the current draft are updated analyses of parkland and recreational needs, and the recommendations for meeting those needs, county spokeswoman Sarah Lankford Sprecher said.
The parkland needs analysis is based in part on a state requirement for 30 acres of parkland per 1,000 people, with at least 15 of the 30 acres locally-owned.
Washington County has plenty of state and federal parkland — more than 120 acres per 1,000 people — but only the minimum of locally-owned parks, the draft plan said.
That figure is currently 15.32 acres per 1,000 people and will need to grow with the population, it said.
“While it is good that there are large amounts of parkland available at the higher levels of government, it is important to realize the opportunities and limitations these large regional parks have in serving the needs of our community,” the draft said.
A comparison of recreational facilities with projected demand shows a need for more walking and jogging facilities, and swimming pools.
However, the numbers used for that analysis do not count private swimming pools, such as the YMCA, or surface-water swimming sites, such as Greenbrier Lake and the Potomac River, the plan notes.
One of the draft plan’s recommendations would support current discussions about creating a hiking and biking trail from Hagerstown to Weverton along the path of the former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
“Depending on location, some local abandoned rail corridors could have outstanding potential for conversion to accessible walking and bicycling paths, with possible links to adjacent states,” the plan said. “The City, County and State should monitor this issue and perhaps carry out some preliminary route evaluations in preparation for this event.”
It also encourages the use of school buildings and grounds for community recreation, a practice the county has already begun with community recreation programs at oversized gyms at three new elementary schools.
The plan also includes a “long range goal of providing a recreation complex (to include an indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, multipurpose rooms, and outdoor fields) located within the Urban Growth Area.”
The Urban Growth Area is the land around Hagerstown, Funkstown and Williamsport, where the county’s Comprehensive Plan calls for growth to be concentrated.
Copies of the draft plan are available for review at the Department of Planning and Zoning office at 80 West Baltimore St. in Hagerstown, and online at http://www.washco-md.net, the county news release said.
Citizen questions and comments should be directed to the Department of Planning and Zoning, 80 W. Baltimore St., Hagerstown, MD 21740 or by calling 240-313-2430.
All comments must be received by no later than noon on Friday, March 30, the release said.
If you go...
What: Land Preservation Parks and Recreation Plan public meetings
When: Monday, March 19, 7 p.m.
Where: Eugene C. Smith Community Center, 37 Park Ave., Shafer Park, Boonsboro
When: Tuesday, March 27, 7 p.m.
Where: Clear Spring Town Hall, 146 Cumberland St., Clear Spring
When: Thursday March 29, 7 p.m.
Where: Hagerstown Community College, ARCC Room 224, 1400 Robinwood Drive, Hagerstown