Dahmon Johnson, a fourth-grader at Perry Hall Elementary School, wants his community's new playground to have a giant dinosaur sculpture that kids can climb on.
Clover Brown, a kindergarten student at the school, made a colorful drawing of what he'd like to see: play equipment with a big ladder.
For Angel Park, a 17,000-square-foot playground, memorial garden and amphitheater to be built near Perry Hall Library, designers and architects have sought advice directly from a key focus group: local elementary school students.
"I like that kids get to help make the park," said Dahmon, 10, "since we're the ones that'll be using it."
A team of designers from Leathers & Associates, an Ithaca, N.Y.-based playground construction company, visited eight elementary schools in the Perry Hall area over the past two days to solicit design ideas. After the tour of the schools, the group planned to review the children's sketches and create a preliminary design.
The idea for Angel Park comes from Kelli Szczybor, a Perry Hall resident who lost her 15-month-old son Ryan to leukemia in 1999.
Szczybor, 40, has been working on the idea for three years but said it took off in recent months when the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks offered 2.5 acres of county land near the library in the 9000 block of Honeygo Blvd. The arrangement was supported by County Councilman David Marks, who represents Perry Hall. After the park is completed, the county will take over ownership and maintenance of the property..
The park will cost about $700,000 to build. Szczybor said the nonprofit Angel Park Planning Committee is accepting donations from the community and local businesses. Organizers have a website and Facebook page, and have collected $100,000 as of this week. Szczybor said she hopes the park can be completed by April 2015.
She said the park is intended to be accessible, with equipment to accommodate special-needs children. She said the name "Angel Park" was chosen, in part, to reflect that goal.
" 'Angel' is a broad term," Szczybor said. "Whether it's those who passed away, special-needs children or volunteers who've made an impact, they all deserve to be recognized."
On Thursday morning, design team members visited Perry Hall Elementary and asked students to sketch out ideas for the park. Jeannie Middlecamp, who has a special-needs child in the third grade at the school, said she'll be thrilled to have a playground where her son Garrett will feel comfortable.
"He was upset [at other parks] because he couldn't do what the other kids could do there," Middlecamp said.
Perry Hall teachers were also excited to see students have an opportunity to provide input.
"It's great that the kids get to be part of the design process," said Lynn Kief, a kindergarten teacher.
In addition to advocating for the park, Szczybor said she's benefited greatly from interaction she's had with community members and children.
"This process — its allowed me to talk about Ryan a lot," she said. "Its been very therapeutic."
"People have been very supportive," she added. "I'm blown away by how much interest there has been."