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News Maryland Baltimore County Dundalk

Ed Hale to pay for Dundalk park gates to be replaced

A set of historic wrought-iron gates that were stolen and scrapped from Dundalk's Battle Acre Monument Park will be replaced, Baltimore County officials said Monday.

While residents have been raising money to replace the gates, county officials said Edwin F. Hale Sr., 1st Mariner Bank founder and owner of the Baltimore Blast soccer team, would pay for new gates at the park.

"I'm glad it's being maintained and getting the recognition it deserves," said Hale, who grew up in Dundalk.

The park, where part of the Battle of North Point was fought on Sept. 12, 1814, had fallen into disrepair until recent renovations were begun in advance of September's bicentennial of the battle. As crews worked to renovate the fence in June, two of the gates that had stood there for 100 years were stolen, police said.

The replacement gates are expected to be done before the bicentennial, Del. John A. Olszewski Jr. said.

On Friday, the police department announced that detectives had arrested and charged George Elias Sotirakis, 34, with the theft. He told police the gates were destroyed. Police said Sotirakis was spotted on surveillance video and identified through information from local scrap yards.

A volunteer with Clean Bread and Cheese Creek, a local environmental group whose volunteers regularly clean up local parks and waterways, first noticed the gates were missing in June.

After the gates went missing, the group's president, John Long, said the group posted fliers that got the attention of a witness, who gave police a description of a car that had driven off with the gates.

Sotirakis, of the 2500 block of Woodwell Road, is charged with theft from $10,000 to under $100,000, and has been released on $50,000 bail.

Police previously charged Sotirakis in a separate case with taking and scrapping more than 100 ladders, mostly aluminum, valued at $4,400, according to charging documents.

"We're very proud that the community came forward and stepped up," Long said. "Dundalk is a very hardworking, blue collar community that is very proud of its history. It's disheartening. He [Sotirakis] only lives a few blocks away from the site, he should know the significance."

Now that Hale will pay for the replacement gates, money from the fundraiser will be used for park upkeep, Long said.

In addition to rehabbing the fence, crews have been building a brick sidewalk and moving the fence line back to improve the safety and appearance of the park, said Joseph "Jay" Doyle, a county project manager, who has been overseeing the project.

Before, the park was littered, overgrown and unsafe, said George Koutsantonis, an owner of Penny's Carryout & Bar next to the park. He said many people walked in the street because the sidewalk was too narrow. Cars hit the fence several times because it was too close to the road.

Koutsantonis hopes the battle site attracts new, frequent visitors, not just for his business but for Dundalk as a whole.

"Dundalk doesn't always get the best reputation," he said. "It may boost the whole community a bit. You have to start somewhere.

Olszewski and his father, County Councilman John Olszewski, reached out to Hale.

"We knew how important those gates are and this project is to the community," he said. "It's reflective of what we do in Dundalk. We take care of each other."

jkanderson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/janders5

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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