A groundbreaking was held May 3 for Ridgely Manor Park in Towson where greenspace will replace eight homes purchased by Hess Corp. and razed a year ago after an underground gasoline leak was discovered. (Staff photo by Mary K. Tilghman / May 7, 2014)

By August, piles of earth will be transformed into the new Ridgely Manor Park with plenty of green space, places to walk and places to play.

Construction on the Yakona Road site began early in April with a brief groundbreaking ceremony on the site on a sunny May 3.

Now in the drainage stage with heavy earth movers and pipes scattered around the 2.5-acre site, construction is expected to last about eight weeks, according to Mandy Stepp, president of the Ridgely Manor Community Association.

"We're looking at an early August completion," she said.

Even the drainage work — which will minimize chronic flooding problems — is cause for celebration. "That area has been a problem for the neighborhood for some time," Stepp said. "They are making tremendous progress."

The park construction is a joint project of the Hess Corp., NeighborSpace of Baltimore County and the Ridgely Manor Community Association. The park is located on the site where eight duplexes were razed nearly a year ago. The people who lived in those houses had reached a settlement with the Hess Corp. over claims that a leaking gasoline tank at a Joppa Road filling station had contaminated their properties. Hess bought the properties as part of the settlement.

"We are incredibly proud of our work with Ridgely Manor Community Association, NeighborSpace, as well as Councilman [David] Marks," said Denny Moynihan, a spokesman for Hess. "We are working very hard to make that park a reality."

"That neighborhood really could benefit from this park," said Marks, whose district includes Yakona Road. Marks attended the Saturday morning groundbreaking along with about 15 other people.

The design for the project, chosen by residents who will live near the park, includes a gazebo, playground, lawn, a paved path and trail through the woods, according to Stepp.

The neighborhood of 200 trim brick houses, almost all duplexes with a handful of single-family houses, was built in the 1940s for workers at the nearby Bendix Corp. But the neighborhood didn't form a community association until last year.

"The park was the impetus for us to get together," Stepp said "It's been nice."

She credits the councilman with helping the group unite. "Marks reached out to us," she said.

As the ongoing concerns over the eight houses continued, the community of independent-minded people met as a neighborhood group last March and they incorporated last May.

Since then, they've planned Dumpster days and yard sales. "It's brought the neighborhood together in ways we hadn't thought of before," Stepp said.

Once the park, designed by the Baltimore architectural firm of Mahan Rykiel Associates, is ready, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held, probably in August. "The neighborhood's looking forward to it," Stepp said.